Massive backlog: The blues of obtaining a green passport

Published: April 18, 2013

PPP-led govt blamed for recruiting corrupt officials in passport offices. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: 

Muhammad Sadiq has been waiting to get hold of his passport since December last year – one he ordered on an urgent basis.

He is one of the many Pakistanis who have endured months-long delays for their passports, despite paying a fee of Rs5,000 for a seven-day urgent delivery.

Present scenario dictates that they will have to wait for at least a month more.

“It’s a pity that this is the state of a government organisation. They earned million of rupees in fees, where did it all go?” asked Sadiq.

A simple answer was given to many disgruntled applicants like Sadiq by the directorate general of Immigration and Passport (I&P): the department has run out of lamination paper.

Normally, the immigration and passport authorities would procure lamination paper well before time. However, in September 2012, vested interests and rampant corruption on the part of the previous government triggered the passport backlog.

According to a senior I&P officer, the Pakistan Peoples Party-led government, for the sake of its vested political interests, put ‘corrupt’ and ‘incapable’ officers in charge of vital departments in the passport office.

“They ruined the entire set-up, but made millions in the process,” said the officer. He admitted, however, he had no documentary evidence to prove his claims.

Besides former director general I&P, Wajid Bukhari — a close aide to former interior minister Rehman Malik – two other officers were blamed for the passport fiasco.

Acting Manager Logistics Rao Imran and Project Director MRP Maqbool Gondal, a relative of former Chairman Public Accounts Committee Nadeem Afzal Gondal, were held responsible for creating the lamination paper crisis.

“Gondal and Rao established a network of agents in other regional passport offices who provided them with hundreds of cases against thousands of rupees where he authorised urgent delivery of passports,” another officer at I&P office said.

His agents at different stations would charge applicants a minimum of Rs5,000 to Rs10,000 for delivery of passports within a couple of days, said the officer, which Gondal made possible using his position. “This was going on at multiple sub-offices at a time. There would have been countless other applicants besides the regular 8000-10,000 passport offices receive everyday,” the officer said.

The project director put the work force under extra burden when the number of passports printed daily increased from 8,000 to a whopping 14,000 – well beyond printing capacity.

This consumed lamination and ink quickly. Adding to the woes, during the last five years of the PPP government, the number of passport offices has increased from 27 to 70.

The interior ministry – that runs I&P department – took no notice initially, and when it finally did, the former interior minister Rehman Malik-led effort went nowhere.

“He did not touch upon the real problem because it involved his people,” said an officer who has been associated with the printing department at the passport office.

Rao Imran delayed the process of tendering and bidding for lamination paper on Malik’s instructions. “For kickbacks, Malik wanted to award the contract to American company while another German company showed interest and was providing a better quality paper at lower price,” said the officer.

Imran, however, raised false objections on the quality of the paper, following which the interior minister cancelled the tender to the company for alleged violations of PPRA (Public Procurement Regulatory Authority) rules.

Currently, the process of procuring lamination paper is stalled by the Islamabad High Court. It has stayed the interior ministry’s decision to award the contract to a US firm, which was allegedly violating rules set by PPRA.

Furthermore, the court has summoned passport authorities on April 15 to answer a French company’s, Hallogram Industries, claims that it won the contract in terms of quality points.

Even the Interior Secretary Siddiq Akbar  and former DG I&P Wajid Bukhari were silent at first, though Akbar came into the picture when things went out of hand. Instead of fixing the problem, the interior secretary suggested an ‘innovative’ solution to the problem in March this year.

He wrote a summary to the law ministry to change the I&P department into an independent authority just like National Database and Registration Authority so that it could keep and spend its earned revenue.  The summary is still lying with the law ministry.

Federal Ombudsman Salman Faruqui on Thursday constituted a four -member inquiry committee to probe charges of ‘widespread corruption and inordinate delay’ in the I&P office.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 18th, 2013. 

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Reader Comments (24)

  • Javed Afridi
    Apr 18, 2013 - 10:10AM

    @author, ‘Is the relief coming anytime soon?’ is the question you should have answered :(

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  • Ammar
    Apr 18, 2013 - 10:10AM

    Passport control authority and FIA has no idea of the misery of people…if I am not wrong the overseas Pakistanis have suffered a loss of millions of dollars and lost their jobs…

    For God Sake…resolve this issue…don’t play with the lives of poor Pakistanis…

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  • Usman
    Apr 18, 2013 - 10:50AM

    The passport office is just one office that the PPP infected. And to think that there are still people out there who would vote for them. The PML-N is also to blame for being a friendly opposition.

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  • BANGASH
    Apr 18, 2013 - 10:55AM

    such a shameless people. third world countries main income is from their overseas citizens but because of such people we are losing every where.

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  • Logic europe
    Apr 18, 2013 - 11:41AM

    This is due to corruption at all leveles and itbhas been their all the time
    Political goal scoring should be avoided by blaming everything on PPP
    Whole systemmis corrupt and all people are corrupt.. Change the system!!

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  • Naya Pakistan
    Apr 18, 2013 - 12:09PM

    Yet another black mark against the country. Corruption galore in each and every department.

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  • Shahid Shaikh
    Apr 18, 2013 - 12:43PM

    Can the Islamabad High Court remove the stay order so government can start importing paper to print the passport! All the promotions are made from bureaucracy and as we know very well the Supreme Court has been cancelling all promotions not done on such basis. So can we stop blaming the government where it is not due? Bureaucray and Judiciary are responsible here not the Executive!

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  • Madaloo
    Apr 18, 2013 - 1:15PM

    It’s funny how the actions of the Islamabad High Court are squeezed in at the end of the article and the entire problem is blamed on politicians. The IHC deserves a lot more blame too for the way it has gone about investigating the problems with the tender.

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  • Sirf Pakistani
    Apr 18, 2013 - 1:16PM

    my sibling recently paid Rs 20,000 for an urgent passport, received it in a week!

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  • Concerned Pakistani
    Apr 18, 2013 - 1:21PM

    What a low… shame and sadness… and I keep my hopes alive.

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  • Sarah Ashraf
    Apr 18, 2013 - 1:51PM

    I have been applying for the passport for the past 2 years. I have paid more than Rs. 50,000 to various agents, including doctors, and have been going around asking various people for the last 6 months regarding my passport. It is despicable that there has been such a delay and I will go to Islamabad to protest outside the passport office next month.

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  • bilal
    Apr 18, 2013 - 2:16PM

    and they are not only limited to Passport department. there presence is in every government organization. thank you PPP. speak for a change support PTI

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  • Sab33N
    Apr 18, 2013 - 2:35PM

    Where is the CJ and where is the SuoMoto against the corrupt government officials?

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  • Tikka
    Apr 18, 2013 - 4:12PM

    I got my passport in two days becuase I paid the bribe.

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  • Mr. Surprised
    Apr 18, 2013 - 4:26PM

    @ Sarah Ashraf,

    Please give us a break !! It’s not that worse, infact this backlog started few months ago and you’re saying something farfetched that you’ve paid 50k and even applying for past years !! Do you think people would believe it?

    I’m sure you never ever tried a formal legal procedure for passport issuance this is why you’d to pay this hefty amount with no success in 2 years. I’d say please go through a proper channel you’d get it with much much less than what you paid.

    It’s people like you who create AGENTS in front of every Govt. Office.

    Please go legal !

    Peace.

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  • Raj786
    Apr 18, 2013 - 5:02PM

    Same condition in INDIA too… I had to pay 1000 inr even i had all document correct n legal

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  • MS
    Apr 18, 2013 - 5:23PM

    where can I pay bribe to get this. im based in riyadh. I want to change my nationality after decision given against musharaf today

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  • LOK
    Apr 18, 2013 - 5:23PM

    Tell me about it. Just paid £52 for urgent passport fee, which will take 2 months (it’s another matter that the receipt says delivery in 5 days). Regular orders now taking 4 months.

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  • Bitter Pill
    Apr 18, 2013 - 5:45PM

    why don’t you Pakis outsource this work to your pals in China!! Passports delivered in no time – and at less than half the price

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  • Gill
    Apr 18, 2013 - 6:00PM

    Dear CJ, please take suo moto as to who was behind the delay in ordering of lamination paper on an urgent basis.

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  • kala_bacha
    Apr 18, 2013 - 6:31PM

    This is just one story of our corrupted system. People still vote the same people this is the biggest dilemma. I hope this will change but only Allah knows how, as people of Pakistan are acting intentional idiots.

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  • NICOPer
    Apr 18, 2013 - 7:47PM

    Make sure you don’t issue them to any foreigners, particularly Afghans. They are always looking to Pakistan for an exit from their nation.

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  • NMA
    Apr 18, 2013 - 9:16PM

    Congratulations to the democratically elected PPP goverment for this new milestone….. Screwing up one of the few things in Pakistan that was previously actually quite efficient…… (compared to getting a passports made in some foreign countries)……

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  • Ali Asghar
    Apr 19, 2013 - 10:01AM

    agents are demanding 20k for bringing passport early, within 5 days. How can these agents are so influential? Still no one is noticing or taking action!

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