Guilty until proven innocent

Guilty until proven innocent

Visiting US envoy Richard Holbrooke, defending America’s new, stringent airport security measures, says that he too has to go through intensified screening. But the outcry from Pakistan on this issue suggests his defence won’t go down well with the public.

Travelers from Pakistan are to undergo extra security screening according to new rules put in place by the Obama administration. With Pakistan bearing the unparalleled brunt of the war on terror and as no passenger with a Pakistani passport has directly caused panic at a US airport, the measure seems harsh. Moreover, owing to a strict and very stringent visa policy, a majority of people who visit the US from Pakistan are either businessmen or other professionals.

Frequent travelers half-jokingly say that they fear arrest on landing in the US, especially if they’ve ever spoken to someone named Osama (very funny, folks). Adding to their ire is the fact that in addition to being screened and subjected to long queues at home, they will have to suffer the humiliating behaviour of US airport security staff. For their part, students fear cavity searches and businessmen are afraid of a night in detention for even having a Muslim name. Pakistani travelers fear that unless screening is applicable across the board, regardless of nationality or religion, the discriminatory measures will add to their woes of being foreign and Muslim in the West.

Human rights groups have long argued that such draconian practices are discriminatory and go against basic human rights. Foreign policy experts are calling the measures over the top. And more investment in airport security is making taxpayers question the billions that are already being spent on intelligence gathering and sharing.

In response, many in Pakistan have started asking for harsh conditions for travelers from the US. One analyst believes that Pakistan must reciprocate with making cavity searches and separate queues for flights originating from the US, but also argues that due to the donor-recipient relationship, Pakistan cannot take any drastic steps.

The fact is, there is a tenacious scepticism being faced by the US in Pakistan, and Washington must refrain from further aggravating the situation. The new security measures are forcing left-wing parties such as the PPP to utter right-wing words to calm public sentiment. The PM, president and Foreign Office have had to join the chorus of public outrage and anger against what is being seen as anti-Pakistan policies despite the country’s best efforts to fight a US proxy war. After the mess of US foreign policy during the Bush era, the Obama administration faces a mammoth task of strengthening ties and helping America’s image abroad.

Ultimately, the US needs to give more thought to the relationship with a key ally. Perhaps policy makers in Washington ought to read Benjamin Franklin, who wrote: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Do you think the new airport security measures are too stringent? If you have recently traveled to the United States, share your experience with airport security staff with

Osama Bin Javaid is a Senior Duty Editor at DawnNews TV.

The following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.


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79 Responses to “Guilty until proven innocent”

  1. SQ Khan says:

    There is nothing wrong in having more security measures in place. We need to get offended by it. The US is doing its duty based on the intelligence to protect its citizens. We must know that US value its citizens safety and security.

  2. Asif says:

    My Pakistani friends don’t ever have an illusion of Pakistan being “Ally” of the US. For the US anything and everything is dispensable. They are simply using you for their agenda in this region .We also must appreciate their concern about the security of their citizens. They don’t want to take any chance on that. Unlike Pakistan where the US is given a free run to kill Pakistani citizens by drones, US value its citizens. Learn lessons from this and have some spine to protest against the drone attacks than calling the new security measures as “discriminatory”.

  3. AAMIR SAEED says:

    Stringent screening measures at the US airports are discriminatory towards Pakistan. We must protest on this discriminatory behaviour and the better option is that we should give a reciprocating treatment to the US citizens landing at our airports.

  4. Deep Thinker says:

    Watching some in pain won’t be that hurting, unless one goes through it. Yes. Every American should be checked. All the respected Pakistani – American citizen, once you go through screening at Pakistani Airport you will realize how painful it will be. It’s a total discrimination. Leaving more room for actually terrorist to plan.

  5. sara says:

    I am a Pakistani. I guess they are right .I don’t feel any embarrassment in it. If I want to protect my home I have to be more careful and alert. So this is what they are doing now instead of making fuss we should make ourselves good human being and a true Muslim, A true Muslim can not harm any human, I slam teaches us be honest not to lie not to indulge ourselves in wrong doing. We should create new Image of Pakistan. So no need to be angry here. This is just for security. So we should be co-operative. And those who don’t want to co-operate simple way to avoid such measures simply don’t go to US…

  6. Mehmood Motiwala says:

    I travel frequently to US from Pakistan, and I do not see what the big deal is. The security system at US airports works and must be obeyed.

    I don’t feel anyone’s dignity is at stake here. Screening all passengers is time consuming and very expensive, therefore I suggest that old folks be exempted and profiling be allowed. Sure there will be hue and cry that must be ignored. American authorities have tried to be politically correct, and the time has come to get strict for the sake of everyone’s security.

  7. Shakeel Iqbal says:

    It is a clear discrimination. if America wants to take security measures then it should be for all countries. Although America says he is our friend, but the truth is he is our friend because of his own interest in this region. Pakistan offered many scarifies during war against terror, But America put new rules in place for teasing Pakistani nation.

    Pakistani administration should also take some brave steps for the protection of nation respect in the world.

  8. Peter Stanley says:

    There is a simple answer to all the embarrassment some Pakistanis feel while going to US. Do not go to US. SIMPLE.

  9. Satya says:

    I wonder if Pakistani’s are more outraged that they have to searched much more aggressively. I wonder if Pakistani’s would still have qualms over this issue if Indian’s were also be subjected to the same? However, as one person already said here. “when entering my house, I make the rules not the community at large”. As for subjecting US passport holders to the same treatment, how many of them are traveling to Pakistan? Would it even send the message that people here are trying to portray?

  10. akbar says:

    The recent 26/11 attack against India was originated from Pakistan. So screening is essential for US citizens to be safe.

  11. A Singh says:

    Since most of the world terrorism activities comes from Pakistan, this is a good move by US!

  12. Javed-Critical analysis says:

    I don’t understand what is wrong with people over here who say that harsh screening methods are Fine!!! Sure they are fine if everyone from every country has to go through it. But why discrimination? Then let’s shut down all the human rights commissions in the world and forget about human rights!!!

  13. Abrar says:

    I have three questions for all those who have been to US or are second or third generation US citizens and are happy with searches. Firstly, do you guys know anything called civil liberties? Secondly, how many terrorist attacks around the globe were carried out by Pakistani nationals? Thirdly, why are all the security measures aimed at airline security, what about people taking the road or sea option?

  14. Aysha Khan says:

    Mustafa your responses are very rational and reasonable. As you responded to Zaheer Lokasher’s question.

    Question: Why only Pakistani, security measure treatment should be equal/fair for all visitor to USA???

    Answer: Why would they screen a Chinese from Hong Kong or a Russian from Russia or a Japanese from Tokyo and citizens from many other countries who are not likely to become suicide bombers???

  15. Aysha Khan says:

    My question to all who are against the security measures :

    Suppose you are all traveling to USA, would you want a taliban suicide bomber sitting next to you in the plane??

  16. Aysha Khan says:

    It is funny that some Pakistanis are suggesting that we should have same measures for Americans coming to Pakistan. We Pakistanis living in America are scared of going to Pakistan. Why would Americans be interested in coming to Pakistan???

    Secondly, I agree with Mustafa’s comments:

    It is next to impossible for America to determine which Pakistani is a friend and which Pakistani is an enemy. They could have banned all Pakistanis from traveling to US but what they have done (body search) is most reasonable for the safety of all passengers in a plane including Pakistani passengers.

  17. Mustafa says:


    You said “Why only Pakistani, security measure treatment should be equal/fair for all visitor to USA”

    The issue is not the fairness or unfairness to visitors to USA. The issue is safety of passengers in the plane as well as, from American point of view, security of United States and the chances of possible militants from specified countries solely in the discretion of US Intelligence. For example why would they screen a Chinese from Hong Kong or a Russian from Russia or a Japanese from Tokyo and citizens from many other countries who are not likely to become suicide bombers.

  18. S.A.Khan says:

    When you go to somebody’s house you, it is implied that you will comply with his/her requirements of entry in it.

    Americans are reasonable not to banned entry of Pakistan citizen all together, but adopted a process of screening the bodies by exhaustive search, allowing the normal Pakistanis in the country. What is wrong with it?

    I once visited a Pakistani house, he required me to take my shoes so as not to dirty his carpet, and I felt I did not like to go through the exercise of taking my shoes so I stayed out. Pakistanis going to USA could do the same. I do not see any reason for noises in Pakistan on the issue.

    I would not like an unsavory person entering my house. It is to me to decide who will enter my house and not the community at large.

  19. M.Saeed says:

    The Whole Body Imaging Technology known as “Backscatter” X-Ray and Millimeter Wave Screening can give the whole body picture at skin surface level. These pictures are normally kept in digital record and can be retrieved for any future reference when needed. Example pictures can be seen at Google search of “Backscatter Images”. They are sufficient to illustrate how they look and decide our respectable course of action. This is what is being intended and even our dignitaries will be no exception. We should not forget the humiliating New York airport body-search of our official delegation of January,2006.


    Why only Pakistani, security measure treatment should be equal/fair for all visitor to USA

  21. Sarah says:

    As a third generation American with Pakistani roots who travels frequently around the world – I can’t object to ” smart ” screening methods.

    Sarah K

  22. Irfan Shah, Frankfurt /M says:

    Dear Navneeth from India. Your observations are correct, but our diplomatic staff in the foreign countries is not as competent as it used to be during the Ayub-Khan-Time. The image of Pakistan can still improved.

  23. Arjun says:

    This step taken by USA is certainly effective.

    Due to this there has been no attack on USA by terrorists.

  24. Harish Advani says:

    There seems to be a hysterical over reaction by some Pakistanis to the recent changes introduced by the US. I have heard of little or no reaction from the other 13 countries, whose nationals will also be subject to extra security checks.

  25. Navneeth Krish says:

    I had been to USA many times and I had gone through this security check, I did not feel uncomfortable. In fact this is making sure everyone in that plane safe & secure.

    The problem is the image of Pakistan is totally damaged out side Pakistan this is because every one involved in Terror some how roots in Pakistan.

    Navneeth ( India ) on Facebook on Facebook