ISLAMABAD: Insufficient budgetary allocations and an inordinate delay in the release of funds for a short-staffed department is an alarming state of affairs and could lead to another passport crisis, the Senate Standing Committee on Interior was told on Thursday.
Due to non-payment of dues, the Printing Corporation of Pakistan (PCP) can stop the supply of passport booklets at any time, said Usman Akhtar Bajwa, the newly-appointed head of the Directorate General of Immigration and Passports, adding that the department owed the PCP around Rs580 million.
He said that machine readable passports (MRPs) were being issued at 35 foreign missions and the expenditure on those alone amounted to around Rs9 million per month. He pointed out that Rs10 to 12 million is given to the department for the whole year and it has to wait to receive a supplementary grant to clear the liabilities of foreign missions. Currently, their liabilities under this head stood at Rs144 million.
Mr Bajwa however, said he had met the finance secretary, who had promised to release the funds which would enable the directorate to clear its dues.
Directorate of passports owes PCP Rs580m
The committee, chaired by former interior minister Senator Rehman Malik, also decided to write to the department concerned to recommend that the funds be released as soon as possible to avert another passport crisis.
Mr Bajwa said that on average 16,000 to 20,000 people applied for passports across the country every day and there was an annual requirement of five million booklets. He said the entire exercise cost around Rs1.7 billion, but their budgetary allocation was less than Rs1 billion.
He said there were currently 95 regional passport offices across the country and the directorate planned to open another 73 more soon. MRPs, he said, would soon be issued from 93 foreign missions. The facility has recently been extended to Pakistani missions in Vancouver, Seoul, Stockholm, Berne, Ottawa, Istanbul, Damascus, Montreal and Barcelona.
He also revealed that 8,628 individuals holding Pakistani passports had been identified as non-nationals between 2008 and 2014. He said all such non-nationals had been placed on a blacklist and their passports had been rendered inactive. All these persons had obtained passports on the basis of computerised national identity cards issued to them illegally.
Nadra Chairman Usman Yousaf Mobeen told the committee that the authority had developed an intricate mechanism for the issuance of citizen registration documents, travel documents, biometric-based border control, core banking solutions, motor vehicle registration and tracking system, e-toll collection, online verification and identification system and e-commerce platform-based applications. He said a unique system was in place to establish the family structure to authenticate the identity and roots of each citizen.
Senator Rehman Malik also sought details on the ongoing Islamabad Safe City Project, including the funds released and the proportion of work completed so far. He opined that the passports directorate should have its own printing facility.
The committee will meet again on Friday and will be briefed on the status of the Axact investigation by the DG FIA.
Published in Dawn June 12th, 2015