WASHINGTON: Miffed at being asked to undergo a full body scanning at an American airport, a group of Fata lawmakers cut short their visit to the United States and flew back home.
The six-member delegation, which included both senators and members of the National Assembly, boarded a Kuwait Airways flight at Washington’s Dulles airport after the dispute.
They had come to the United States on Feb 28 on a 15-day visit.
On Saturday morning, they were scheduled to fly to New Orleans as part of their tour.
But when they arrived at the airport, two of them were marked for random checking, which included a body-scan.
They refused to accept the demand, saying that they would rather go home than submit to the proposed scanning.
Senator Abbas Khan Afridi, a senior member of the delegation, later told journalists that other lawmakers backed their colleagues and told US officials that they too would go home if their colleagues were not exempted.
US State Department officials, who were travelling with the delegation, took the lawmakers back to their hotel in Washington where Pakistan’s deputy chief of mission and other senior US officials joined them.
They tried to persuade the lawmakers to change their minds, telling them that all passengers in the United States had to go through random checking. Even US generals, members of Congress and senior officials are not exempted. But the lawmakers did not accept their argument.
Mr Afridi said that the lawmakers considered the scanning order an insult to the parliamentarians of a sovereign country and decided to call off their visit.
He claimed that officials at the US Embassy in Islamabad had assured them that they would not be subjected to a body-scan and that’s why they reacted so strongly to the proposed search.
While the State Department issued no statement on the incident, official sources claimed that the lawmakers had signed a document in Islamabad which explicitly said that they would have to go through the normal procedure, which would include body-scan, and that there would be no exceptions.
The sources said that they were surprised at the lawmakers’ reaction because they were searched while they arrived as well but did not object to it.
Their stay in Washington prior to this incident was pleasant and they were also receiving $200 a day as daily allowance.
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