ISLAMABAD: The holders of multiple passports are set to have yet another chance to get their additional passports cancelled to avoid a jail term under the law.
Informed sources told Dawn that under the seventh amnesty scheme, the holders of more than one passport would be given three months to either set the things right or be ready to face the music.
The decision was taken at a meeting chaired by Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed. It was also attended by Interior Secretary Yusuf Nasim Khokhar and Director General of Immigration and Passports Dr Naeem Rauf.
The cases of those who fail to benefit from the scheme will be referred to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).
Those failing to benefit from scheme will face imprisonment under law
Section 6 (1) (j) of the Passports Act reads: “A person shall be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both, if he: obtains more than one passport for himself either in the same or different names by concealing the fact of his already being in possession of a passport.”
An official said the final approval of the proposed amnesty scheme would be given by the federal cabinet. The DG immigration and passports was asked to prepare a summary for the cabinet in this regard.
He said the scheme would benefit overseas Pakistanis currently facing difficulties for being blacklisted on being found to be holding more than one passport.
So far 12,000 individuals have benefited from six earlier amnesty schemes and over 1,600 applications are pending in the absence of a policy.
The sources that a large number of individuals had obtained more than one passport on the basis of multiple national identity cards. Most of such passports were issued when the automated fingerprint identification system (AFIS) was not in use.
Fraudulent information, including change of date of birth, name and parentage, was used by the applicants to obtain more than one passport. After the introduction of the AFIS, officials detected the cases of issuance of more than one passport to the individuals who were blacklisted and they were barred from obtaining a new passport or getting their passports renewed.
Following frequent requests by the passport holders, the immigration and passports department had requested the interior ministry in June 2006 to formulate a policy about cancellation of additional passports on the ground that many of the blacklisted people had valid visas and wanted to go abroad for employment or education.
The recommendation of the department for grant of amnesty to the people tendering written apology and producing a certificate from the National Database and Registration Authority about cancellation of any additional CNIC was approved by the ministry.
The amnesty was initially granted for the period up to July 26, 2006 and later extended till Dec 31, 2009 with some changes in the cancellation policy like a penalty and police verification. It was further extended till June 30, 2011 and then to January 2014.
The passports department had from 2009 to 2013 received 6,469 applications from individuals for removing their names from the blacklist. The official said the last amnesty scheme came to an end somewhere in 2019.
It is not clear if all cases of multiple passports have been detected. It is also not clear what fine will the offenders have to pay to benefit from the amnesty scheme. Last time the fine ranged between Rs10,000 and Rs50,000.
Published in Dawn, September 16th, 2021