WASHINGTON: Shehryar Khan Afridi, chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Kashmir, was stopped briefly at New York’s JFK Airport for screening but was later allowed to enter the United States, said an official statement released on Saturday.
Afridi arrived in New York via flight QR-0701 (Qatar Airlines) at 3:15pm on Sept 15. JFK sources claimed that Afridi was stopped for secondary screening when he failed to satisfy immigration officials at his first screening.
According to these sources, he was questioned for about an hour and was allowed to enter the country when the Pakistan consulate in New York confirmed his credentials.
A spokesperson for the Pakistan Embassy in Washington, however, said Afridi was allowed to go without any delay. “As a first-time visitor Mr Afridi was put through secondary screening briefly and was cleared in routine without any guarantees being sought or given by anyone from the Embassy or the Consulate,” the spokesperson said.
According to media reports, Afridi was stopped for a second screening despite his government passport bearing the visa stamp. Maliha Shahid, the Pakistan embassy in Washington’s spokesperson, described the incident as a “normal” one, adding that the former minister of state was stopped at the airport for only a few minutes before he was allowed to enter the city.
The tragedy of the incident was that fake pictures were displayed on social media in Pakistan, UK and other countries. One (reportedly) journalist put the picture on social media saying it original picture of a traveller with fake picture of Shaheryar Afridi.
Mr. Afridi was fully acquainted with the whole saga so he gave a TV interview at the Pakistan Consulate in New York and clarified the situation.
Speaking to SAMAA’s Abbas Shabir in New York, Afridi said the enemies of Pakistan were behind the fake news. The Pakistan embassy in Washington says Afridi went through secondary screening only briefly and was allowed to leave without any guarantee being sought or offered.
The rumours and fake news came when Afridi was asked to go through secondary screening at the New York airport. One news report by journalist Azeem M Mian said Afridi was stopped at the airport for “over one hour” though he was travelling on the official passport.
The report said Pakistan Consul General in New York Ayesha Ali had to go to the airport to deal with the situation. The consul general would not comment about the incident, the report said.
The mentioned journalist tweeted a picture that showed Afridi being stripped at the airport for screening. The picture turned out to be photoshopped and that journalist and anchor person admitted to the faux pas, saying he had been played by “some forgers.”
Maleeha Shahid, the spokesperson at the Pakistan embassy, told journalists that as a first-time visitor Afridi was put through secondary screening briefly, but he was allowed to go without any delay.
The spokesperson said the Pakistani diplomatic mission did not give any guarantee nor was it sought. Other reports say Pakistan’s mission in New York did confirm Afridi’s credentials after that he was allowed to leave.
‘Fake news cannot deter me’
Shehryar Afridi says the time it took him to go through the immigration and other checks was not unusual and the reports of him being held at the airport were “fake news”.
He said the enemies of Pakistan were spreading fake news because they were unsettled by his US visit and mission, which was to promote the Kashmir cause. “Fake news cannot deter me,” said the chairman Kashmir Committee.
He said every country has its rules and regulations that one needed to follow. Afridi said he did not like the idea of protocol officers waiting for him.
Who is Shehryar Afridi?
Shehryar Afridi was minister of state between 2018 and 2020. He moved from the ministry of interior to the frontier region and then to narcotics control. In September 2020, Prime Minister Imran Khan removed him as minister of state.
In May 2020, he was appointed chairman Parliamentary Special Committee on Kashmir, a position held previously by JUIF’s Maulana Fazlur Rehman for several years.
Afridi first ran for the National Assembly from Kohat in the 2002 general election as an independent candidate. He could not win but secured a PTI ticket in the 2013 general elections and made it to the National Assembly. In 2018, he was re-elected as a PTI candidate from Kohat.