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WSF moot called off as delegates denied visas

KARACHI, Feb 23: The caretaker government has refused visas to renowned Palestinian leader Leila Khaled and 16 other foreign delegates who had been invited by the Pakistan Organising Committee of the World Social Forum to attend a public assembly and conference on west Asia, announced Fahim Zaman Khan at the Karachi Press Club on Saturday.

Accompanied by Dr Haroon Ahmed, Dr Shershah and Usman Baloch, Mr Zaman announced on behalf of the WSF Pakistan Organising Committee that on Feb 21, the caretaker government refused to grant visas to Ms Leila Khaled, Dr Mustafa Barghouti and Jamal Juma of Palestine, Dr Ali Fayyadd and Prof Dr Mohsen Mohammad Suleman Shah of Lebanon, Ban Ibrahim, Dr Kamal Majid, Ms Haifa Zangana, Prof Dr Mundhar Adhmi and Prof Dr Saad Naji Jawad from Iraq, Irfan Habib, Ms Subashni Ali and Saeed Naqvi from India, Prof Georges Nicola Jabbour and Prof Ali Atassi of Syria, Ms Cindy Sheehan of the US and Rakhsha Banietemad of Iran.

The Zaman said that the proposed public assembly and the conference on west Asia were being organised at the City Sports Complex, Karachi, and at the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs. They were intended as a raising of the voice against the five-year-long occupation of Iraq, the seven-year-long occupation of Afghanistan, 60 years of the siege and occupation of Palestine and military globalisation spearheaded by the US and its allies around the world.

Referring to the caretaker government’s refusal to grant visas to delegates, Mr Zaman expressed the hope that the newly-elected government would not similarly bulldoze such efforts and allow such events to be held in Pakistan.

The public assembly and conference, said Mr Zaman, were originally scheduled for Jan 26 to coincide with the WSF International Council’s call for a day of global action against economic and military globalisation spearheaded by the US and its allies. However, the Pakistan organising committee was forced to postpone the events for the want of visas permitting invitees to enter the country.

The said that the committee was initially told that since elections were being held in the aftermath of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination amid a precarious law and order situation, the government was unable to rise to the challenge of providing security for the participants. Regrettably, the committee was told by the government that visas could not be issued because the intelligence agencies were unwilling to clear visa issuance to the participants. Mr Zaman added that the decision was communicated to him by Interior Secretary Syed Kamal Shah, although the matter had been discussed earlier with him and the caretaker Interior Minister, retired Lt-Gen Hamid Nawaz Khan.

The committee had planned to hold the public assembly on Feb 24 at the City Sports Complex, Kashmir Road, as well as a reference for the chairman of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the late George Habash, on Feb 25 in collaboration with the Karachi Press Club. On Feb 27 and 28, a two-day conference on west Asia had been planned in collaboration with the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs in its auditorium. In addition, a poster exhibition depicting the occupations of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine, the Intifada and the Israeli war on Lebanon, had also been also planned at the Pakistan Arts Council.

Mr Zaman said a fresh plan would have to be drawn up but made it clear that a rally will be taken out next month to condemn the occupation of Iraq.

Source: Dawn