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British Defence and Home Ministers to visit Pak

October 04, 2009 21:32 IST
British Defence and Home Ministers will arrive in Islamabad on Monday for meetings with the top Pakistani leadership to take stock of the regional security situation and the war against terror.
 
British Home Secretary Alan Johnson and Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth are scheduled to meet President Asif
Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Interior Minister Rehman Malik and
Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar during their two-day visit.
 
This is the first joint visit to Pakistan by the British home and defence ministers. In a statement issued by the British High Commission ahead of his arrival, Defence Secretary Ainsworth said a stable and secure Pakistan is a "vital goal not just for
Pakistan but also for security in Afghanistan and for the security of the UK".
 
"Pakistan has a vital interest in rooting out the militant insurgency which threatens and undermines its state and the security of its people. We are working together to counter this threat...," Ainsworth said, adding that this process will be taken forward during the visit.  

Meanwhile, the Dawn newspaper reported that a "raging row" between Pakistan's foreign ministry and Britain over immigration-related issues, including "huge and unexplained delays" in issuance of visas, had compelled Home Secretary
Johnson to visit Pakistan in an attempt to defuse tensions.
 
Johnson's "prime task seems to end the friction by explaining to the Pakistani authorities a variety of fresh measures (Britain is) taking to expedite visa processing", the report said. The two sides are also expected to discuss several other issues, including differences over the type of violators of British laws who need to be deported from Britain. Some senior foreign ministry and government officials are "so annoyed" on issues involving Britain that they had advised Prime Minister Gilani not to agree to a joint press conference with the visiting ministers.
 
However, sources told PTI that the news conference is expected to go ahead as scheduled. The visa issue has become an irritant in bilateral ties as it involves thousands of Pakistanis, a bulk of them students whose academic career is at stake.
Pakistani businessmen, university professors and persons invited to attend international conferences have also
been denied visas, the newspaper report said.
Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
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