Pakistan to Tighten Travel Controls on Westerners

This story was filed by CBS News' Farhan Bokhari in Islamabad.
(AP / CBS)
Pakistan will tighten travel controls on young men with ethnic backgrounds from Islamic countries who carry Western passports, a senior Pakistani official tells CBS News.

Leaders in the insurgency-wracked country made the decision after the arrest of five young U.S. nationals in a raid on a house linked to Islamic militants in the east of the country earlier this week.

Pakistani police in the city of Sargodha said Thursday that the five men had traveled to the Asian nation to commit "jihad," and sources tell CBS News that a team of FBI agents spoke to the group Wednesday night.

Pakistani officials have speculated that the men hail from families originating in Eritrea, Yemen, Egypt and Pakistan, who subsequently became U.S. nationals.

"We are to tighten controls. It is just not feasible for us to allow someone who is dedicated to a militant ideology and carries a Western passport to freely enter Pakistan," said the government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The decision will not necessarily deny entry to individuals who already have Pakistani visas stamped in their passports, though a second Pakistani official who also spoke on the condition of anonymity said measures including checks on the given addresses in Pakistan of people traveling to the country, "will likely be an important part of the tightening process."

Later this month, there is expected to be a surge in the number of expatriate Pakistanis traveling back to Pakistan for their winter break. Many such travelers of Pakistani origin, who carry Western passports, are able to enter the country without a visa if they possess a national identity card of Pakistan origin (NICOP), which is valid for 10 years.

Pakistani officials say there are no current plans to reconsider the NICOP option, which allows its holders to buy and sell property in the country and affords all rights that citizens enjoy, with the exception of voting privileges.

However, the second government official who spoke to CBS News warned that "Every option will be considered to tighten the travel of suspected militants" following the arrest of the U.S. nationals.

  • Farhan Bokhari

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