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Jakarta Post

Pakistan asks Indonesia to ease visa restrictions

  • Tama Salim and Ina Parlina

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, March 23, 2017   /  10:41 am
Pakistan asks Indonesia to ease visa restrictions There are currently 29 airports, 88 seaports and 7 border checkpoint posts in Indonesia that apply visa exemption for foreign citizens. (Shutterstock/-)

Pakistan insists that its bilateral relationship with Indonesia will flourish if the two countries find a solution to the strict visa requirements that have been placed against Pakistanis.

“Unfortunately and for unknown reasons, [the Indonesian government has] placed Pakistan on a very restrictive visa list that makes traveling to Indonesia very difficult,” Pakistani Ambassador Aqil Nadeem told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday ahead of the 70th anniversary of Pakistan National Day, which falls on March 23.

The envoy insisted that the policy was “really impacting” peopleto-people contact between the two countries, who have otherwise met challenges in increasing balanced trade relations.

He said as many as 200,000 Pakistani tourists travel to Singapore or Thailand each year, in what amounts to a wasted opportunity for Indonesian tourism. According to official figures, only 8,000 Pakistanis visited Indonesia in 2016.

Meanwhile, bilateral trade between Indonesia and Pakistan is currently close to US$2.2 billion, tilting heavily in Indonesia’s favor due to significant exports to Pakistan of palm oil and coal.

Pakistan has been trying to lobby the Indonesian government to take it off the list of countries that require a calling visa for entry, touting various improvements in the security situation that had previously given the country a less-than-stellar reputation.

On the sidelines of an Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit in Jakarta in March 2016, Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain made a plea at the highest levels to have his country taken off the list.

(Read also: Indonesia to review free-visa policy)

Earlier this year, Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna H. Laoly said he would raise the issue with other relevant parties.

According to Article 2 paragraph (3) of the 2012 Law and Human Rights Ministers Regulation on guidelines to the granting of visas for countries on the calling visa list, an evaluation of countries on the list is conducted by a multi-body clearing house.

The clearing house comprises the Law and Human Rights Ministry, the Home Ministry, the Foreign Ministry, the Manpower Ministry, the National Police, the Attorney General’s Office, the State Intelligence Agency, the Military Strategic Intelligence Agency and the National Narcotics Agency.

The regulation also stipulates that countries on the list are those that pose a potential liability to Indonesian national interests from an ideological, political, economic or socio-cultural standpoint, as well as threaten national security, defense or immigration.

Officials from the ministries could not be reached for comment.

Islamabad has come under domestic and international pressure to crack down on militants and outlawed sectarian groups to disprove accusations of statesponsored terrorism.

Two Pakistani research groups noted earlier this year that the country saw a significant drop in militant violence in 2016, crediting the military for the decrease in attacks, the Associated Press reported.

The Center for Research and Security Studies said there was a 45 percent drop in violent deaths in 2016 compared to the previous year, while the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies, which tallies incidents of violence, registered a 28 percent drop in attacks in 2016, compared to 2015.

Both organizations, however, warned that the positive trends could be reversed if militant groups regained strength.

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