NAROWAL: Hundreds of applicants reached the regional passport office on Tuesday to get the document following reports of increase in fee on the social media.
Scuffles broke out among the applicants in an effort to be the first to get their passport, injuring 13 people, including the elderly and women.
Various posts on social media stated that the government would issue passports on the predetermined fee till Jan 31. From Feb 1, people would have to pay a new fee that was reportedly 300 times more than the previous one to obtain the travel document.
On receiving such reports, hundreds of people reached the regional passport office here and tried to push each other to be the first to enter the gate. The citizens ended up clashing with each other, resorting to punches, slaps and abuses. Resultantly, 13 people, including senior citizens and women, were injured in the stampede.
Elderly women among 13 injured as passport aspirants aim to be first to reach counter
There also appeared to be a lack of arrangements to control such a situation at the passport office owing to which hundreds of senior citizens and women had to return home without their passports. On the other hand, there was a long queue of hundreds of young people on the adjacent side of the office.
A young man told the media that he had applied for a Korean visa and had gone to the centre to collect his passport. Muhammad Mustafa and Kamal Awan said they had read on social media that the fee for getting a passport had been increased from Rs3,000 to Rs9,000, adding they went to apply for it on Tuesday to save money. They said they had also seen some posts that rejected the impression that the government had increased the passport fee.
Amjad Khan and Wazir Ali said they had to apply for a Korean visa for which they needed their passports urgently. Senior citizens Fida Hussain and Farkhanda Bibi said they had gone to the passport office to collect their passports to perform Umrah, while lamenting there were no separate arrangements for senior citizens and women. Owing to the precarious situation, they had to return home without their passports.
The citizens demanded Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif take immediate notice of the situation.
Meanwhile, Passport Office Assistant Director Ghulam Rasool Pasha called reports of fee raise fake. He said due to the scuffle between applicants at the gate, the coupon counter and windowpanes of the office were broken, adding police were called in to control the situation.
He further said the passport office was operating till 11pm for the last two days. The applicants who had submitted their fee on Tuesday and received a coupon would be processed the next day on priority.
Published in Dawn, February 1st, 2023
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