Islamabad: Indian actor Anupam Kher being denied a Pakistani visa is "reflective of the byzantine and thoroughly nebulous visa regime that exists between India and Pakistan", a leading daily said on Thursday.
An editorial "Indo-Pak visa regime" in Dawn said that while there are differing accounts of why exactly Bollywood actor Anupam Kher was not issued a Pakistani visa, one thing is clear: "The episode is reflective of the byzantine and thoroughly nebulous visa regime that exists between India and Pakistan".
The actor, who was supposed to attend the Karachi Literature Festival, which kicks off on Friday, says he was denied a visa as Pakistan’s interior ministry did not issue a no-objection certificate.
However, Pakistan’s high commissioner in New Delhi says Kher never submitted a visa application, while a KLF organiser claims they were told “not to apply” for the Indian actor’s visa.
"Of course, many high-profile individuals from both countries have been denied visas or censured for using undesignated ports of entry," said the daily.
It observed that if this is the state of affairs public figures face, "it can be well imagined what the common Indian or Pakistani has to go through when applying to visit the ‘other side’. The fact is that miles of red tape have been put up by both bureaucracies to consciously discourage people from putting in a visa application".
A 2012 agreement governs the visa regime between India and Pakistan. "But despite its promises, this arrangement is anything but liberal."
"India requires Pakistanis applying for a visitors’ visa to submit a ‘sponsorship certificate’, in which their Indian host promises to vouch for their ‘good conduct’ while in India. Also, for the vast majority of visitors with police reporting visas, the exercise can be a nightmare, with people often shaken down for bribes over minor technical issues," it added.
The editorial went on to say that visa processing, which is supposed to take a little over a month, can take much longer, throwing travel plans off kilter.
"If there is to be peace in the subcontinent fostered by people-to-people contacts, and if the dream of a connected South Asia is ever to be realised, these medieval rules need to be changed and the visa regime must be truly liberalised. Presently, divided families as well as ordinary people who desire to visit the other country are suffering, much to the delight of hard-line lobbies on both sides.
"Whenever dialogue is resumed between Islamabad and New Delhi - and we hope this occurs soon - a more humane visa regime should be on top of the agenda."