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Pakistanis in US living in fear

Pakistanis in US living in fear

Author: Anwar Iqbal
Publication: The Christian Science Monitor
Date: December 21, 2002
URL: http://csmonitor.com/specials/sept11/dailyUpdate.html

Fear grips Pakistanis living in the United States as Washington screens hundreds of thousands of Muslim immigrants, looking for possible terrorists.

Diplomatic sources in the US capital say that as many as 200,000 Pakistanis may be affected by the new requirement to register with the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Such registration is required under the laws made after the last year's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were added this week to a list of 18 mainly Muslim countries whose nationals are required to register. All non- permanent Pakistani residents in the United States must register with the INS between Jan 13 and Feb 21.

The INS has already detained hundreds of Iranian and Arab Muslims when they came for registration. While talking to Dawn, INS spokesman Jorge Martinez acknowledged "about 400 arrests," mainly in southern California, which is home to more than 600,000 Iranians. Muslim advocacy groups, however, say the number is much higher.

The arrests caused panic among the Pakistanis who will also be appearing before INS officials soon. "We are receiving 200-300 calls a day from those who fear arrest," says Imran Ali, a consular officer at the Pakistan Embassy in Washington. The embassy stays open till late at night to deal with the new situation.

The embassy is also trying to convince the US administration to reconsider its decision to include Pakistan in the list of "high terrorist risk states." They argue that since Pakistan is a close US ally in the war against terrorism, it does not belong to this list.

Ambassador Ashraf Jehangir Qazi and his senior staff have already held several meetings with senior US officials, including Assistant Secretary of State, Christina Rocca, an adviser to the National Security Council, Steve Hadley, and a legal adviser to the US Justice Department, Harry Marshall.

US officials are believed to have told the embassy that the decision to include Pakistan in the list was taken by Attorney-General John Ashcroft and the White House fully supports this decision.

They said that Pakistan could not be taken off because the Bush administration wanted to further expand the list. They said that more countries might soon be added to the list. They, however, urged the embassy to suggest how to lessen the difficulties Pakistani nationals might face during the registration process.

Although most of the non-resident Pakistanis in America are living in fear, New York is the worst affected. "Afraid of being arrested, many Pakistani workers are staying at home. Pakistani restaurants and grocery stores are empty and some people have even gone to Canada," said an official at Pakistan Mission at the United Nations.

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