ISLAMABAD: Hordes of people from all over the country come to the Diplomatic Enclave every day in the hopes of going abroad. But the longest queues can be seen outside the British High Commission.
Families leave home at the crack of dawn just to make it to the embassy in time and wait for hours on end to submit their application forms and give interviews. The forms are often filled incorrectly, necessitating repeat trips.
Sadia from Daadyal in Kashmir said, “This is our second trip, there’s always something or the other amiss.” Sadia and her niece Safina had come to apply for British passports for their children. They said their husbands are in the UK and that they would apply for their own passports after the children’s visas have been processed.
“Getting married to a foreign citizen or someone working abroad is always an advantage as the husband will be earning in pounds,” said Safina. “With the deteriorating conditions in the country, a foreign passport can provide security for me and the children.”
But neither are too keen to move to the UK. “This is home,” said Safina, who is her husband’s third wife. The other two wives are already in the UK.
Safina and Sadia said that third and even fourth marriages aren’t that unusual in their area, especially when the prospective husband is a foreign citizen. Sadia is a second wife herself. The fact that multiple marriages are prohibited in the UK has not stood in the way of these unions. “There is even a rumour floating around about my husband’s fourth marriage in the family,” confided Safina. She said she won’t be too thrilled if it happened, but will show the fourth wife the same kindness her two seniors have shown her.
Newlyweds Hina and Sarfraz from Mardan were waiting for a visa interview. Sarfraz has been living in the UK since 21 years and is hoping to take his bride back with him in October. Though Hina was not too pleased to leave Pakistan, Sarfraz said he “couldn’t get out of here fast enough because I can be more successful abroad”.
“Every time I visit, the situation seems to be getting worse. I’m looking forward to starting a new life there.”
Aisha, a mother of three from Gujranwala, who is also hoping to join her husband in the UK, commented on the excruciatingly long waiting hours and stress that are part of the process of applying for a foreign passport. “I’ve been waiting for this passport since last year…not only is the wait dehumanising but also the way we are treated here.”
She complained the embassy gives no help to applicants in filling out forms, which leads to incomplete or inaccurate information, necessitating a re-application. “I have lost a lot of money, time and effort applying for our passports. Maybe if my husband were here it would be easier.”
Aisha too is not thrilled about moving abroad but feels it is necessary to give her family a better life as she’s not sure if the situation will improve here. “Take a good look. People from different walks of life from all over Pakistan are waiting to get out.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated “crack of down” instead of “crack of dawn”. A correction has been made.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 18th, 2012.
More in PakistanCrime: House burgled