Donald Trump’s executive order limiting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries could be extended to include Pakistan, White House officials have suggested.
Chief of Staff Reince Priebus defended the travel ban which bars entry of nationals from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen to the US for 90 days, and hinted others could join the list.
The order, which also suspended refugee resettlement for 120 days and barred Syrian refugees indefinitely, provoked public outcry across the country, with protesters taking to the streets in outrage over what many called a “Muslim ban”.
“You can point to other countries that have similar problems like Pakistan and others – perhaps we need to take it further,” Mr. Priebus said in a television interview.
He also attempted to justify the measures, which many have branded “unlawful”, claiming the order had been implemented for the “protection of Americans.”
The US President also defended the measures on Facebook.
“This is not about religion - this is about terror and keeping our country safe. There are over 40 different countries worldwide that are majority Muslim that are not affected by this order,” he wrote.
However, many were quick to highlight the order had excluded countries where the real-estate mogul had vested business interests.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt did not feature on the list, despite extremists from the countries committing terror attacks on US soil in the past - 18 of the 19 terrorists who perpetrated the 11 September attack on the twin towers were of Saudi origin.
Politicians in Pakistan called out the ban as an overt example of Mr Trump’s “Anti-Muslim” leanings.
“What is clear is that Donald Trump is targeting Muslims, not terrorists,” Pakistan People’s Party lawmaker Khursheed Shah told reporters, according to the Hindustan Times.
However, cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan welcomed a potential extension to include the country, saying extra visa restrictions could force Pakistan into self-improvement.
“The prime minister goes abroad even if he gets a headache. If (the ban) happens, we will have to improve Pakistan and stand on our own feet,” he said.