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Official: Pakistan snubbing US help by refusing key visas

Pakistan has refused to extend the visas of at least 135 US government or military personnel, a senior US embassy official says. It is forcing the US to begin shutting down aid programs designed to help Pakistan.

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The Pakistani government is refusing to extend visas to American government, military personnel, and contractors – a decision that punctuates a wave of anti-American sentiment here and threatens billions of dollars in US aid programs.

Pakistani officials have not granted visa extensions to about 135 individuals working for the US government here, as well as a number of Defense Department personnel trying either to extend or obtain a visa, according to a senior US embassy official in Islamabad. As a result, the planned aid programs are beginning to be scrapped, the official says.

The diplomatic snub comes as the US embassy expands the number of American personnel working here to oversee $1.5 billion per year in non-military assistance to Pakistan. The aid is part of an attempt to demonstrate a new, long-term commitment to the country. But it has provoked outrage in Pakistan, where critics said the package – which sets certain benchmarks for the Pakistani government – compromises Pakistani sovereignty.

“I don’t know if it’s growing, but it certainly is quite profound,” the official said of anti-American feelings across the Pakistani government. “They don’t want more Americans here, they are not sure what the Americans are doing, et cetera, et cetera.”

Rocky history

Pakistan and the US have had a rocky relationship for years, with many Pakistanis feeling the US pays attention to their country only when it serves US interests. Since 9/11, many Pakistanis have been even more scornful of the US because they feel used. There is a broad perception here that the US is demanding that Pakistan fight insurgents solely for US gain.

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