Visas for Pakistani Britons continued - a response to Matt Sinclair

Responding to my response about the possibility of America ending the Visa waiver for Britons of Pakistani descent, Matt Sinclair has two points to make; firstly, that 'Pakistani' is not a race and secondly a misinterpretation of the Pacifico incident and the indivisibility of citizenship.

Matt says that "... 'Pakistani’ isn't a race. You can't adventure race part of the way through the 20th century. Pakistani contains a collection of people from different races. It is a nationality."

In exactly the same way, Britain is made up of English, Scots, Welsh, Irish, the descendants of every one who was invaded the British Isles and everyone who has immigrated to the UK. Matt's argument is semantic; if I am discriminated against on the basis that I am British (whatever that may mean) it is, in effect, the same as being discriminated against on the basis of my race.

Matt pooh-poohs my concerns about what makes up a Pakistani for these purposes by suggesting "the simple criteria of whether a person has, or is eligible for, a Pakistani passport". If Matt would take the time to look at the website of the Pakistani Directorate-General for Immigration and Passports, he would see that Commonwealth citizens who transfer Rs 5 million (about £41,000) are eligible for Pakistani citizenship and hence a Pakistani passport. On that definition, both he and I are now excluded from the Visa waiver programme. Moreover, we go right back to what I see as unacceptably discriminatory and Matt sees as impossible - Pakistani 'blood' as the key factor.

The Pacifico incident involved someone born at Gibraltar of Portuguese extraction to the Jewish faith losing their property in Greece. The point that Palmerston wanted to make, and that Matt supports in his post, is that there is no room for a second-class citizenship. It would be better for all Britons to lose the Visa waiver than for some Britons to lose the Visa waiver. Matt is absolutely right that no one has a right to a Visa waiver and that the United States may offer that facility to people as they choose. Just because they legally could discriminate in the stated manner does not mean it would be practical, moral or desirable to do so; equally, Britain could, and I hope would, uphold the Pacifico principle in saying that from its point of view it does not matter whether you are of a given faith (or of no faith) but Britain will treat you equally and would seek equal treatment for you from other states, particularly close allies.

In response to Matt’s end cap, I maintain that defining a group in this way leads to forming or exacerbating in-groups and out-groups; I fear that Matt maintains this point himself when talking about the role of Islam in the identity of Pakistan, given that Islam was the defining characteristic at the time of the Partition.

It would perhaps be a useful comparison to turn the tables and ask whether, at the time of the Black Panther Party, Britain should have refused Visa waivers to African-Americans for similar reasons to those Matt supports above. I'm not, I hasten to add, accusing Matt of racism - far from it - but perhaps of short-sightedness.


PS I wrote this post using Dragon NaturallySpeaking - please forgive any errors, as I'm not quite there with it.



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