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Passports’ backlog: Artificial delay


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ACCORDING to a probe carried out by the interior ministry and the Federal Investigation Agency, the long delay in issuing and renewing passports is largely due to bending of the rules by officials. Hundreds of thousands of applicants are suffering on account of what appears to be a deliberate delay in the bidding process for lamination patches for passports. Those responsible include officials in the interior ministry and the passports’ directorate — they had apparently wanted to award the contract to favourites without following the procurement rules. Meanwhile, the Islamabad High Court has stayed the awarding of the contract for lamination patches to a US firm as a French contender has challenged the bidding process. Around 700,000 passport applications are pending, affecting Pakistanis from all strata of society.

Students wanting to study abroad are affected, as are businessmen and those who need to undertake emergency travel. The backlog has put overseas Pakistanis in a particularly difficult situation as millions of citizens work abroad. As foreign governments have strict immigration laws, the expiry of a passport can mean job loss and a one-way ticket home. Some missions in the Gulf states have started to manually renew passports, but this is a temporary solution. Besides, manually extending the validity of passports does not solve the problem of first-time applicants. There are also disturbing reports that applications routed through passport ‘agents’ — a euphemism for touts — are being given priority by officials after applicants pay more than the notified fees. Normal booklets are officially supposed to be issued in 12 days while urgent passports should be ready in five days. But due to the current backlog it is taking up to two months for urgent passports and double that time (and more) for normal booklets, thus making it difficult for passport applicants to make travel plans.

The caretaker set-up needs to resolve this issue on an urgent basis, while it is hoped the IHC will expedite the hearing of the case so that the contract can be legally awarded and the procurement of lamination patches proceeds, keeping in mind the suffering of the public. In the meantime, the interior ministry needs to come up with a plan to clear the backlog as soon as possible; one thing it can do is to crack down on the agents and their accomplices on the inside so that only citizens who lodge their applications through legal channels have their passports issued. Those responsible for creating this artificial shortage and sabotaging what was a relatively efficient system must also be hauled up.

Comments (13) Closed

Ankahi Baatein Apr 08, 2013 11:44am
I am one of the sufferers as (with plans to travel in June) I applied for the renewal of my passport on the 3rd of April. To my shock I have been given a 60 days time period although I had given fees for an urgent renewal. I hope the care taker government takes positive steps to solve this geniune problem of more than 700,000 Pakistanis
S.Nasir Mehdi Apr 08, 2013 01:37pm
I would like to draw the attention of the designer of passport. In every country the booklet number of the passport is taken as its number. The passport no. in very small letters on a corner. Why the perforated number is not treated as passport number. What was the need of a separate number
Saber Apr 08, 2013 01:42pm
The situation at all Pakistani consulates and embassies is grave. The staff is doing their best to handle aggravated applicants who are waiting for months to get their passports.The responsible officials must be punished harshly to avoid such incidents in future.
Zamir Alam Apr 08, 2013 02:17pm
This country can not laminate its own passport ? wow. PPP govt. did achieve in 5 years time.. While dictator Ayub Khan .. may rest in peace. .. had established P. security printing press to print all. stamps. stampapers. passports and currency.. hmm Long Live PPP
Muhammad Apr 08, 2013 07:27pm
I applied for new passport on Dec 3 at the NY Consulate. I was hoping to go to Hajj this year. Unfortunately, 4 months have passed and nothing is done. All Hajj groups of my preference are booked. This is height of incompetency.
Mustafa Apr 09, 2013 12:09am
History haunts my friend. This same situation prevailed when i applied for passport in 2001, the passport books were held and they wanted to issue the 60 pages passport book, due to which everybody was forced to buy that 60 pages including me (i still have that). after bribing the officials Rs5,000 i finally got my passport.
Ayaz Mughal Apr 09, 2013 03:36am
Ayaz Why has such a good system failed. Those responsible should be punished. Is it not a fit case for suo-moto action by the Hon'ble Supreme Court.
Akbar khan Apr 09, 2013 04:40am
Why we need to renew our passport after 5 years? It must be valid at least for 10 years to reduce the burden on the so called most corrupt officials and cost to bearer n govt both. Also why are we-charged double fees for urgent delivery while it's now indefinite period to deliver. The choice and charges of 100 pages passport for business person also need to make affordable. Hope common sense which is rare among our fake degree rulers will prevail to ease out the critical issue to protect the interest of not only overseas but ensure to increase our job opportunities in international market to begin with a passport issued promptly. We reserve the right to sue the govt in event of any job loss to overseas Pakistani on account of inordinate delay to get one.
Akbar khan Apr 09, 2013 04:49am
I forgot to add that if scrutinized the govt officials academic records it won't be surprising to discover majority of them without any Degree like wise our honorable fake degree holders discarded parliamentarians!
Noorani Apr 09, 2013 05:48am
Here in USA passports are issued by department of state and applications are accepted at local area post offices. My grandson's application was filed with regular (non urgent) delivery fees on Friday February 01 and after two days week end must have reached the district passport office on Monday February 04. The date of issue as stated on the passport booklet is February 07 (Thursday) and was delivered (again with no urgent fee) in our mail box by US postal service on Saturday February 09. Here I would also like to appreciate the efficiency of Pakistan Consulate in Houston, Texas. I had dispatched four US passports from Dallas, Texas along with applications and a fee of $120 each including that of my minor grandson for Pakistan visa on Saturday February16 via priority mail of US postal service with confirmed delivery date to Houston on Tuesday February 19 providing for two days of week end and postal holiday on Monday February 18 being President's day. Applicants have to include the self addressed postage paid return envelope along with the application, which was done properly. The Pakistan visa stamp on all four passports reads issue date February 21 (Thursday) and passports were delivered to our mail box on Saturday February 23 and I did send a thank you message to the consular officer for prompt processing of the visa applications. Further, my son's and my grandson's US passport and my daughter in law's Pakistani passport was sent to the Saudi consulate in New York for Umra visa through the travel agent in Dallas, Texas on Monday February 25. The visa stamp reads issue date February 27 and passports were delivered back to the travel agent's office in Dallas, Texas on Friday March 01. The travel agent/s use overnight courier service. Children have had their trip to Pakistan and are now in Saudia and shall return home to Dallas on Thursday April 11th.
Danish Apr 09, 2013 09:53am
Got my passport today, after 65 days!!!!!!
Noorani Apr 09, 2013 06:11pm
Congratulations on this big achievement. In next 65 hours you will be leaving Pakistan right.
rabail Apr 09, 2013 06:44pm
urgent or ordinary ? Ur city ?