The green passport

March 31, 2010


Summer is here in its full skin-peeling-sweat-soaked glory in Karachi. It’s usually at this time of the year that travel from Pakistan reaches its peak. The holiday crowd and the business visitors start venturing abroad since summer is the time when schools go off and many important trade or other professional seminars are being held somewhere in the world.

Sadly enough, ever since 9/11, having a green passport is more like a curse when traveling internationally instead of being the proud blessing it used to be. Getting a visa on the said

passport involves going through so many security and background checks as well as documentation, that by the end of it all the person in question feels like they have committed some sort of a crime and are being tried for it.

Case in point, a journalist friend has recently been chosen to represent this country at a conference in Chile. This person is currently in documentation hell and just issued a cry for help with the following words:

Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeelp! •    They want all my degrees Matric, Hsc, BSc, BDS, MSc!!! •    They want copies of all associations that my degrees are accredited with PMDC and Higher education commission •    They want my ID card •    They want my tax return •    They want a  KESC bill in my name •    They want an NTN certificate •    They want three months’ account statement stamped by manager of bank AND an accountant of the bank ALSO •    They want a valid credit card statement •    They want full copies of my passport, from the first page to last page - THEN they want a color copy of the first two pages

On top of all this, the said person has to supply all this information 20 days in advance of their travel date, after which they have to sit and wait and pray that somehow they reach their destination in time. The point I am trying to make here is that this person has not even committed the grave crime of hoping to travel for pleasure - for agendas like those we Pakistanis have to submit not just documents but non-refundable visa fees equaling sometimes a months salary for a middle class person.

All of this is however if you have the priceless luck of a valid green passport at present, because if you don’t have that to start with, then you are currently bereft at sea in Pakistan. Passport renewal usually takes a month or more but these days it has been taking exceptionally longer. Some people reportedly have been waiting since January. When they call their respective passport offices, the answers range from lack of “lamination material” used for the first page, to allegedly a complete breakdown of  the passport printing machine to “don’t call us we will call you.” Therefore if you are wondering how a businessman or a student or a vacationer or a professional is supposed to plan anything involving hopping on a jet from Pakistan, then I think by now you should understand that they shouldn’t plan at all.

Faisal Kapadia is a Karachi-based entrepreneur and writer. He blogs at Deadpan Thoughts.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.