Canadian govt urged to relax visa restrictions for Pak military personnel

ISLAMABAD: The Defence Ministry asked the Canadian government on Friday to relax visa restrictions on Pakistani military personnel intending to travel to Canada.

The issue was raised by Defence Secretary retired Lt Gen Alam Khattak during a meeting with Canadian High Commissioner Heather Cruden.

Ms Cruden, who has recently taken up the Islamabad posting, was visiting the Defence Ministry for a discussion on bilateral military cooperation.

Pakistani military personnel have been denied visas for Canada since 2007 because of Clause 34 (1) of the Canadian Immigration Act.

The inadmissibility clause has been in force in Canada since 2001 and is not Pakistan specific. It disallows entry to individual and members of organisations, who are considered by the Canadian government to have been involved in use of force, pose threat to Canadian security, espionage or subversion of a democratic government.

The Defence Ministry believes that the law has been unduly used to refuse visas to Pakistani military personnel.

A Pakistani diplomat, while explaining seriousness of the problem, said that restrictions were a big issue.

The two sides have been considering a bilateral MoU on Military Training and Cooperation Programme. Pakistan wants the agreement to be finalised so that the two countries could start what an official described as `meaningful cooperation` between the militaries of the two countries.

Secretary Khattak, while talking to the Canadian envoy, emphasised on exploring future prospects of military collaboration between Pakistan and Canada in training of armed forces` personnel and exchange of visits.

Ms Cruden, according to a Defence Ministry statement, agreed that such exchanges were possible under the Canadian Military Training Assistance Programme.

Published in Dawn