Foreign missionaries registration and interviews with IB to delay in visa renewals. By Robin Fernandez. PCP Report.


KARACHI: April 9. Eleven foreign missionaries are awaiting government clearance to secure temporary residency rights and carry on their work in Pakistan, a church source said here today. "These missionaries represent various denominations [of the ch

A few among those missionaries were informed some weeks ago that they would need official clearance, when they last applied for renewal of their papers. "One of the priests in my [Catholic] order was asked to appear before an intelligence Bureau (IB) official," the source disclosed. Until recently the local police was entrusted with the task of reviewing the papers of church missionaries and other foreigners residing in the country. Ten other missionaries have also been kept on tenterhooks--as some of them have been made to wait for visa extensions for almost two months now. The delay in issuing clearance has made some missionaries very nervous, and has forced them to think about alternatives. Since the year 2000 Pakistani authorities have put into place a tougher system of alien registration. Local officials insist the process does not target missionaries or hamper their work, but is intended to stop the tide of illegal immigrants into Pakistan. A presidential decree was implemented under which guest workers were required to register themselves and obtain residence and work permits--or risk deportation and fines. Many Christian missionaries did acquire the relevant documents but a few were discouraged from doing so. "For instance, those who needed to be posted in several cities for pastoral and allied services sought visa renewal, as did those who came on short trips," said a Catholic missionary. "One or two priests are good as stranded because they had to urgently travel outside Pakistan for conferences and the like," he said. "They can't go outside [until their papers are in order] as that would mean they would not be able to re-enter the country," he added. Visiting Catholic missionaries generally re-use the visas that were issued to their colleagues in yesteryear, according to a church official. As such no fresh visas are ever sought or allowed to be used, the official said.

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