TORONTO - Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan was yanked from his flight to New York and taken in for questioning at Toronto Pearson International Airport Friday.
Khan, who was in Brampton Thursday night for a politically-charged speech about turmoil in his homeland, boarded an American Airlines plane from Toronto to New York to speak at another fundraising dinner in Long Island City the same day.
“I was taken off from plane and interrogated by U.S. Immigration in Canada on my views on drones. My stance is known. Drone attacks must stop,” Khan tweeted at 3:35 p.m. Friday.
The questioning reportedly lasted up to an hour before Khan was allowed to board a later 4 p.m. flight to New York.
Khan, who is the founder of Pakistan‘s Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party took part earlier this month in a protest against U.S. drone strikes on his home turf.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection said they cannot divulge any information on particular cases due to privacy laws.
“Our dual mission is to facilitate travel in the United States while we secure our borders, our people, and our visitors from those that would do us harm like terrorists and terrorist weapons, criminals, and contraband,” said CBP spokesman Joanne Ferreira.
“Under U.S. immigration law, applicants for admission bear the burden of proof to establish that they are clearly eligible to enter the United States. In order to demonstrate that they are admissible, the applicant must overcome all grounds of inadmissibility.”
Toronto Sun columnist Tarek Fatah said Khan was likely interrogated because of groups protesting his entrance to the U.S.
“They were concerned about anti-Americanism while he’s speaking over there,” Fatah said.
The American Islamic Leadership Coalition from Phoenix, Ariz. wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton earlier this week, pressuring her to revoke the U.S. visa granted to Khan because of his sympathetic views towards the Taliban.
“The U.S. Embassy made a significant error in granting this Islamist leader a visa,” the group said in a statement. “Granting individuals like Khan access to the U.S. to fundraise is against the interest of the people of Pakistan and the national security interests of the U.S.”
Masud Raja, the finance secretary of Pakistan‘s Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party said Khan was taken off the plane with Fauzia Kasur, the president of the women’s wing of the PTI.
Then, immigration officials questioned him about his views on Jihad, whether or not he was going to protest in the U.S. and what his views were on drone attacks.
“Missed flight and sad to miss the fundraising lunch in NY but nothing will change my stance. Still looking forward to meet PTI family there,” Khan tweeted after the incident.