LAHORE, April 17: Following an acute shortage of passport material resulting in a huge backlog of applicants persisting for the last six months, the new administration of the Directorate General of Immigration and Passports (DGI&P) has begun printing 4,000 passports on a daily basis to provide a bit relief to those seeking the vital document.

Authorities are projecting printing of 10,000 passports a day in a week or so after up to 300,000 lamination patches will be available to the directorate as a result of a contingency plan devised by the caretaker government.

“Those who are being issued passports on priority basis are students seeking admission to foreign institutions, patients, elderly persons, applicants for Haj and Umrah, professionals with job offers and those whose visas are expiring,” newly-appointed Director General Zulfiqar Ahmad Cheema told Dawn on Wednesday.

Cheema said up to 4,000 passports were being printed every day but with the supply of 300,000 lamination patches the daily production would jump to 10,000 and help address the applicants’ grievances.

He said a committee constituted by the federal ombudsman to probe into the delay in awarding contract for lamination patches had started working.

He said his objective was to improve overall conditions in the department and one of the most difficult fronts he was facing was the non-availability of passports to the applicants on time.

When his attention was drawn towards establishment of new passport offices across the country by former PPP-led government and transfer of manpower and logistics from existing offices already deficient in the same, the DG said the directorate was examining all matters with a view to overcome mismanagement in the directorate.

Sources at the DGI&P told Dawn that the interior ministry had approached the Prime Minister’s Office to seek approval for adopting an aggressive strategy to eliminate tout mafia and taking action against the staff involved in irregularities.

They said the directorate had exerted pressure on old suppliers to provide 300,000 lamination patches within a few days to overcome the backlog.

They said DG Cheema had written to the interior minister that officials’ foreign postings made in violation of merit must be cancelled forthwith. He also urged fresh postings at foreign missions in accordance with seniority and merit.

The sources said it had been brought to the knowledge of authorities that many politically well-connected officials were posted in various foreign missions ignoring merit.

They said the new DG had so far suspended 10 officials in different ranks on charges of bad reputation and corruption, adding that some of them were also got arrested.

They said five agents from Lahore and two from Islamabad/Rawalpindi had so far been taken into custody during a clampdown on tout mafia.

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