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Pakistan

Volume 406: debated on Tuesday 10 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent reports he has received on (a) the impact of the invasion of Iraq, on public opinion in Pakistan and (b) support for fundamentalist Islamist views. [117361]

During the military action in Iraq there were several relatively small, and mostly peaceful, demonstrations in Pakistan. There was, understandably, wife media coverage and public debate, mostly critical of coalition action. The religious alliance the MMA, secured 12 per cent. of the vote in the October 2002 elections. It is an alliance of six parties reflecting many shades of conservative Muslim opinion in Pakistan. Thereare no clear indications to suggest their support base has strengthened further in recent months.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether British citizens have been ordered in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan to veil themselves in public. [117360]

We are not aware of any British citizens who have been ordered to veil themselves in the north west frontier province or elsewhere in Pakistan. We are aware that the North West Frontier Province Assembly has passed the Shariat Bill which envisages an Islamic way of life in the Province. However, the law is not yet in force and its constitutionality has reportedly been challenged in the Supreme Court. We will continue to monitor the situation.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what rules Fedex imposes on its acceptance of visa applications for visits to the UK from Pakistan; what arrangements there are where such an application is outside those restrictions; and if he will make a statement. [117765]

This information is available on the UKvisas website, the address of which is www.ukvisas.gov.uk.The Visa Section in Islamabad remains unable to accept personal callers and all applications for entry clearance must be made through the courier service, Gerry's Fedex. The High Commission is currently only able to resolve certain categories of application and advises Gerry's Fedex which types of application they are able to accept.The types of visitor application which can currently be considered are:

Those who have travelled to the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand or the USA within the last five years as a visitor.
Business visitors with a letter of invitation from a company in the UK who have travelled to the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand or the USA within the last five years and has evidence of this travel.
Persons aged 60 and over going to visit close relatives in the UK.
Visitors with urgent and compassionate reasons to travel, who have prior agreement from the Britist High Commission that the application will be accepted.
Someone wishing to undertake urgent medical treatment, with evidence of the referral from a doctor in Pakistan and an appointment letter from a doctor in the UK.

Upon receipt of the correct fee, Gerry's Fedex will forward the application to the Visa Section in Islamabad for consideration.

Those persons who wish to visit the UK but do not meet the criteria outlined, may apply for a visit visa in a third country. This should be done with the prior agreement of the visa issuing office of the British Mission(s) in that country. Those applications where there are exceptional and compassionate circumstances involved are considered on their own merits. The procedure allows the applicant to fax the visa section, detailing the kind of application they wish to make and why it should be treated as an urgent/compassionate case. If the Visa Section agrees that it can be considered. the applicant is sent a letter to take with their application to Gerry's Fedex where it will be accepted.