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Passport woes

April 06, 2013

THIS is with reference to a news item regarding passport issues (March 27).

I submitted an application for passport renewal on Jan 31 and would like to share my experience at the Passport Office, Garden Town, Lahore.

I was greeted by a lot of agents. I was informed that I had no choice but to apply for an urgent passport as the people who had applied on routine priority did not receive passports even after six months.

After haggling with one agent I agreed to pay Rs1,200 just to get inside the hall. By paying this amount I, along with hundreds of other people, was able to save one extra day in the passport office.

I noted that approximately 1,000 people applied for passport renewal every day, so the business of agents was flourishing. The agents were openly saying that they had to pay 80 per cent of the amount received from us to the officials in the Passport Office.

By 2pm we reached another hurdle which was the last step in the process. The staff which was supposed to be verifying did not come to their seats until the crowd started getting angry and proceeded towards the director’s office.

I asked a few agents and they told me to spend Rs500 more for the hurdle and I could save time.

Most of my companions gave the amount and were cleared within minutes. By the time the staff came back to their seats, it was 5pm and almost pack-up time. Only the first 400 people were called and the rest were told to come the next day.

I was asked to collect my passport on Feb 15 but have still not received it. I repeatedly visited the Passport Office but there was no sign of the passport being delivered to me. Then I contacted the agents and they have informed me that I could get my passport in a week’s time if I paid another Rs10,000.

My only intention in sharing this miserable experience is to raise voice against this corruption which is being practised publicly and without fear. When and how will we wake up?