Pakistan’s leading opposition politician, Imran Khan, is urging President Donald Trump to ban Pakistanis from entering the United States, after he suspended immigration from seven Muslim majority countries.
The controversial U.S. ban currently applies to Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
Addressing a rally in the central Pakistani town of Sahiwal on Sunday, Khan denounced the ban as anti-Muslim and praised Iran for its retaliatory action of banning Americans from entering the Islamic Republic.
“I want to tell all my fellow Pakistanis today, I pray that Donald Trump really bans visas for us." Khan said, suggesting that such a move could help prevent brain drain from Pakistan.
He went on to urge educated and skilled Pakistani youth to abandon U.S. travel plans in search of a better economic future, and to focus instead on building Pakistan.
“And then if America tells us they are stopping visas for us we will also, like Iran, tell them we are going to stop visas for Americans,” Khan vowed.
Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf party is the third major political force in the national parliament, and rules the country’s northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhaw province.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government has not yet commented about Trump’s ban on Muslim countries.
Officials in Islamabad are hoping for improvement in their usually uneasy relations with Washington under the Trump presidency.
Pakistan’s alleged support for anti-Afghanistan and anti-India Islamist militant groups sheltering on its soil has been a major irritant in tensions with Washington.
On Sunday, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus hinted that Pakistan could be included in the list of countries from which immigration has been banned.
“You can point to other countries that have similar problems like Pakistan and others -- perhaps we need to take it further.” Priebus told CBS News.