KARACHI – Zia Hussain Shah, a Fulbright scholar from Karachi had to miss a quarter of his academic year as he was barred from entering the United States despite having all necessary documents.
The 25-year-old, a postgraduate student at the University of Chicago, was returning to the US on January 4 when he was stopped at the Karachi airport, reported Tribune.
Shah was quoted by Tribune as saying that he only discovered that his entry back to the US had been blocked when he got to the airport. “We cannot let you go,” Shah was told by border agents, who said they had received a confidential email instructing them not to let him pass.
“I went through all the clearances for a whole year,” Shah said, speaking to BuzzFeed News on the phone from his home in Karachi. “It’s almost impossible to believe.”
The incident came at the beginning of the year, shortly before there was heightened attention on US president Donald Trump’s proposed ban on anyone arriving from seven Muslim-majority countries — which did not include Pakistan. It is unclear why Shah’s entry was refused. When Buzzfeed News contacted US Customs and Border Protection they did not comment on the matter.
According to Tribune, Shah was previously enrolled in the US-government-sponsored undergraduate program in 2014.
He studied in Washington and later returned to Pakistan to start Ravish, a project for providing education to children for conflict resolution. The project is also showcased on the US State Department website.
“I work for peace-building and empathy and this doesn’t suit my profile in life to be stopped like this,” he said.
“What I’m doing is challenging extremism, and I’ve been affected by what you’re working on,” he said elaborating on his work against terrorism. Shah lost a family member in a terrorist attack in 2010.