ISLAMABAD: A large number of citizens have been running from pillar to post in Islamabad to procure their passports, some of which have been delayed for up to two months instead of arriving in 21 days as per the processing time mentioned by the authorities.

As the delivery of passports witnesses delays, those on the receiving end are patients needing urgent medical treatment abroad, students seeking admission to foreign universities, and individuals pursuing work visas.

Despite paying “urgent” fees for expedited service, many applicants have been waiting for months to obtain their passports but without success. The prolonged delays have exacerbated the frustration and anxiety of many, highlighting a critical need for efficiency and reform in the passport issuance process.

The consequences of these delays have been severe.

Students, academics, job aspirants face the brunt; urge interior minister to intervene

Abdullah, a graduate in mechanical engineering, is among the many individuals affected by the delays in passport issuance. He shared his experience, stating, “I submitted my passport renewal application on April 8, and the Islamabad passport office issued a receipt indicating it would be ready by May 6 (in 21 working days).

“However, 67 days have passed, and I still haven’t received my renewed passport. I recently missed an interview opportunity in Qatar because I did not have a valid passport. When I approached the official at the passport office, he demanded additional fees, claiming it would expedite the process by just a week.”

Expressing his frustration, Abdullah lamented, “It’s outrageous that instead of assisting citizens, the government department seems more focused on profiting from our desperation. It feels like a deliberate attempt to extort money from the public. I am still waiting anxiously for my renewed passport, with no clear indication of when it will be processed.”

Imran Shehzad, a lecturer at a government college, expressed his disappointment, stating, “I had hoped to present my research paper at an educational conference hosted by the University of Wisconsin Madison, USA. The conference committee issued me an invitation letter to apply for a visa.

“However, despite applying for passport renewal on April 4 with a promised processing time of 21 working days, I am still awaiting its arrival.”

He said he met an official at the passport office on Thursday but the assistant director could not provide him with any delivery timeline. “It would have been a great honour for me to represent my country in the USA, but now my dream of presenting a research paper I worked tirelessly on for several months seems unfulfilled.”

Kashif, a student hoping to study abroad, expressed his disappointment. “My mother has saved every penny for my education overseas, despite our financial struggles.

“I applied for a passport with the ordinary fee, opting to save money instead of paying the urgent fee, and expected it within three weeks. However, the delay has now exceeded three months, putting my plans in jeopardy.”

An official at the passport office, requesting not to be named, said that Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi has already taken notice of the situation and directed the staff to expedite the printing of passports. “While Mr Naqvi was in the United Kingdom, he took notice and directed to ensure timely delivery of passports,” he said.

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2024

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