Monday, December 19, 2005

Pakistan visa hassles upset victorious Indians

Indian footballing legend P K Banerjee, who managed the victorious Indian football team at the South Asian Football Association Championships in Pakistan, complained he had been so "saddened by the behaviour of Karachi airport officials" that he was forced to shed tears.

"I have been to many countries as a player and as an official but never have I been meted out such treatment as by the security officials at the Karachi airport," Banerjee told media on his return. "They were extremely arrogant and rude and refused to cooperate despite showing them proof that I was in Pakistan as the Indian team's manager."

The incident occurred when Banerjee was to take a connecting flight to Abu Dhabi from Karachi to fly to the US from there to attend the convocation ceremony of his daughter. The airport security officials in Karachi had him evicted from the airport premises, as his visa was not attested by a local police station.

"No one told me that I had to report to a local police station in Karachi and have my visa attested and neither did any Pakistan Football Federation officials accompany me to the airport, which is a normal custom," Banerjee said.

All India Football Federation president Priyaranjan Dasmunsi, who is also India's union minister for information and broadcasting, said he had briefed Indian foreign secretary, Sham Saran, to take the matter up with Pakistani authorities and had already sent a representation to the Pakistan Football Federation "strongly protesting the treatment of Banerjee" as well as informing the Asian Football Confederation and the Fédération Internationale de Football Association.

Although an Indian referee, Suresh Srinivasan, was also held back at the Karachi airport just as he was returning with the Indian team for the same visa hassle, the secretary of AIFF, Alberto Colaco, appeared suprised that there was confusion about the visa formalities. “Every Indian national in Pakistan and Pakistani in India has to report to local police station," he told The Statesman.

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