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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2706

Swiss recalls diplomatic staff from Pak after visa scam

By Iqbal Hussain Khan Yousafzai – Reporting from Islamabad

Islamabad, 20 May, ( Switzerland has recalled its entire diplomatic staff, including the ambassador, posted in Islamabad and Karachi mission, following the confirmation of massive visa fraud at its Islamabad Embassy.

The issuance of visas to Pakistani nationals has been stopped forthwith for an indefinite period till the process of replacement was completed. However, the Swiss government has not given any date by which process staff replacement will be completed and visa section re-opened in Islamabad.

Bern has also launched three disciplinary investigations into the visa scam and confirmed irregularities in the issuance of visa to the racket involved in human trafficking to European countries.

In complete disregard to diplomatic norms, much to the embarrassment of Islamabad, the Swiss authorities did not deem it fit to take the host government into confidence before the decision to recall its envoy and other staff.

The Swiss Foreign Ministry first posted the decision on its official website instead. In a brief comment over the development, Foreign Office Spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said: “This is the decision of Swiss Foreign Office, which it has taken after conducting thorough investigation. The statement issued by the Swiss Foreign Office makes it clear that embassy staff will be replaced. We hope that this replacement will take place expeditiously. From our side, we facilitate the staff replacement in whatever way our facilitation is required ... so that the Swiss embassy can resume its normal functions, including visa and counselor services.”

Earlier, the Swiss authorities in Bern confirmed some 100 cases of visa fraud at the embassy. It came after Pakistani interrogative agency launched a probe into embassy employees, who allegedly issued Swiss visas to locals migrating illegally to Europe.

The announcement to recall the diplomats from Pakistan has been posted on the website of the Switzerland Foreign Ministry ( Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) ) with a headline “Irregularities in the issuing of visas: opening of disciplinary investigations and other measures.”

Giving the background of this decision, Swiss authorities said administrative investigation into irregularities in visa department of the Swiss Embassy in Islamabad has now been completed. It revealed that the embassy was targeted by organized crime in Pakistan. It also found that “organization of the visa section was inadequate in some respects and that regulations were not always complied with.

The head of DFA has also ordered that for organizational reasons the entire staff of Swiss Embassy in Islamabad in a bid to “make possible a complete overhaul of the visa section”. For reasons of prevention, the entire staff of the Consulate General in Karachi will also be replaced and its organization will be strengthened.

The DFA announcement further says that given the publicity surrounding the visa problems in Pakistan, an increasing number of accusations have been made against Swiss Embassy there. “These complaints stem from persons whose visa applications have been rejected because they do not satisfy the requirements for entry to Switzerland. No more visa applications will be accepted until the organization and the staff situation in the Islamabad embassy have been overhauled,” DFA statement said. It also said investigations into the activities of criminal organizations in the visa area are continuing. Switzerland is cooperating with the competent investigating authorities in Pakistan.

- Asian Tribune -

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