US Increases Student Visas for Pakistanis


New York : The US State Department has steadily increased the number of visas granted to students and visitors from Pakistan and two other Muslim countries, a survey conducted by NBC News channel revealed on Saturday. Many counter-terrorism experts welcome the increase in visas to Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, arguing that exposure to American culture outweighs any possible risk from prospective terrorists.
“Given the fact we have things like biometric data, and more robust efforts around the world to track people of concern, it’s better we take the calculated risk to encourage the elite in these countries to come here,” Bob Grenier, former head of the CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center told NBC news. “There is a ripple effect in reaching those people we want to reach in those countries.”
NBC examined temporary and student visas granted to citizens of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan from 2000 to 2007. Saudi Arabia is Osama bin Laden’s home country, while Egypt is the home country of his deputy, Ayman al Zawahiri. Both men are alleged to be hiding inside Pakistan. Saudis also made up 15 of the 19 hijackers on Sept 11.
Overall, the three countries received 134,015 visas in 2000, before they dipped to 34,781 in 2003, the lowest year in recent memory.
Since then, the numbers have risen dramatically, to 109,878 last year, the first year of 100,000 or more visas since 2001. Those numbers represent an 18 per cent drop from the peak year of 2000, but a near tripling since 2003.
The decreases, however, are uneven, with Pakistan down 48.5 per cent, Saudi Arabia down 34.4 per cent and Egypt down the least, at 20.2 per cent.
Officials in the three countries are particularly sensitive about the educational visas.
The reason: The elite in each of those countries — usually the most pro-American segment of society — want their children educated in US colleges and universities.



Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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