Step aside, Sir…

IT’S COMMONLY believed that immigration officials at airports have a paranoid psyche.

That often compels them to dig in details and act irrationally while dealing with the subject at hand. Instances of detention at airports for further screening of travel documents could be condoned on grounds of legal compulsions. But it has been noticed that officials tend to harass and quiz celebrities for reasons better known to them. The United States is no exception in this — and rather one could find a long list of well-known people being probed with the explicit intent of political vendetta. At times this exercise turns out to be demeaning, counter-productive and quite embarrassing. From former Indian president Abdul Kalam to superstars Shahrukh Khan and Kamal Hasan the list goes on. It also includes former Indian defence minister George Fernandez and Palestinian Authority chief Yasser Arafat.

The latest addition to the queue of people who are asked to ‘step aside, please…’ is Pakistan’s cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan. The US immigration officials in Toronto seemed to be sceptical of his political views, especially those on drone attacks inside Pakistan, and wanted to abreast themselves anew. Khan who was on a fund-raising trip across the Atlantic was supposed to attend a banquet in New York on his way back from Toronto when he was stopped and questioned. What difference would it make on the policy horizon of the host country even if the visitor succumbs to pressure tactics and tongue-in-cheek goes back on his stated stance? Immigration officials need to revisit their approach and ensure that travellers are not harassed on the premise of their beliefs, political views or caste and creed. Such ‘stop and scrutinise’ ploys merely go on to add to the popularity of the travellers. It serves no purpose other than a media stunt.

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