LAHORE, July 18: The immigration and passport wing of the interior ministry seems to be a shambles with officers freely using their contacts in ‘right places’ to clinch lucrative posts and their internal rifts causing great inconvenience to the people.
The Garden Town (Lahore) regional passport office is a glaring example of this as it is currently having three assistant directors (ADs) in spite of shortage of seven officers at the district passport offices in Punjab. As the officers remain busy in maneuvers to get posted at bigger stations, most preferably the provincial headquarters, the public pays a heavy price of departmental politics as lack of supervision of overburdened lower staff badly affects the quality of service at the poorly-managed passport offices.
There are 20 passport offices in Punjab while only 13 assistant directors are ‘available’ for posting at these centres. However, there is no dearth of officers for stations like Islamabad and Lahore (Garden Town) – each having two ADs. Sources in the Directorate General of Immigration and Passports told Dawn that a struggle among the offers for getting lucrative field postings by using strong ‘references’ in big cities was badly affecting quality of service at passport offices.
They said long queues of people at passport offices and slow pace of work at processing counters had become hallmark of the department where the applicants were frequently seen accusing the officials of non-seriousness.
Sources said it was a routine that the officers posted at small stations got themselves transferred to big cities by using influence.
Currently passport offices at Sialkot, Faisalabad, Sargodha, Sahiwal, Hafizabad, Rahim Yar Khan and Jhelum are either having deputy-assistant directors or superintendents as their heads.
Citing an example of department’s internal politics, sources said Mubashir Ahmad Tirmizi had been working as assistant director at the Garden Town passport office for the last two years or so. The authorities in an ‘abrupt’ move appointed Jahanzeb Shah as AD (Legal and Establishment Affairs) in the same office around three weeks ago.
The sources said as Mr Shah had no particular assignment, he allegedly started interfering in the work of Mr Tirmizi which created a rift between the two officers. They said the post of Legal Affairs AD was created only to accommodate Mr Shah.
They said interestingly another AD, Iqbal Shahid, who had been serving at Abbot Road office for six years till 2011 and then got posted at Hafizabad passport office, was transferred and posted at Garden Town office four months ago to assist Mr Tirmizi, who had been given the charge of deputy director Punjab against an existing vacancy.
Interestingly, Mr Shahid, who was transferred from Garden Town office to Abbot Road office, didn’t stay there for more than a few days and reportedly got himself transferred again to the GT office where there was no AD vacancy.
According to department’s record, AD Jahanzeb Shah, imported into the department on deputation from Wapda, was appointed Garden Town office AD in December 2009.
An FIA raid on the GT office and arrest of 13 agents led to registration of an FIR against Mr Shah on charges of patronising the agent mafia and others, but he reportedly absconded.
The director general appointed Mr Tirmizi as new AD of the Garden Town office while Mr Shah, who later secured an interim bail, was given a posting at Islamabad headquarters.
In 2011, Mr Shah got posted AD at the Abbot Road office but another FIA raid and a case against his subordinate again led to his transfer after one-and-a-half months stint there.
Mr Shah then got postings at passport offices of Jhelum and Sialkot, but was again transferred to the headquarters because of his ‘non-serious’ attitude and ‘malpractices’.
However, the DG again posted Mr Shah at the Garden Town passport office around three weeks ago and gave him the assignment of Legal Affairs AD, the post which never existed in Punjab.
Mr Shah, when contacted, claimed he had been appointed at the Garden Town office against his desire and had nothing to with administrative affairs of the incumbent AD.
He also denied using contacts to get posted at Garden Town office.
“As I have no office and staff for my new assignment, I have requested the authorities to provide me the same,” Shah said, adding he was ready to serve anywhere in the field.
He said he was absolved of the charges mentioned in the FIR lodged against him when he was Garden Town office AD, denying involvement in any malpractice.
Mr Iqbal Shahid said he had been given the acting charge of Punjab deputy director being the senior most AD in the department. He claimed he never used any influence to get a posting.
He said he was not authority to speak about transfers and postings in the province and causes of officers’ ‘shortage’.
Attempts made by this reporter to contact immigration and passport director general and the director headquarters on their cell phones and via text proved futile.