Pakistan's consulate in Dubai continues to make Pakistani expats suffer
It took me eight hours to submit my forms; do our government officials even value the time of their own citizens?
On November 2, Gulf News ran a report about the problems being faced by the Pakistani expat community in Dubai due to the delay in processing of passports by the Pakistan consulate in Dubai.
This report came a day after my brother was rudely turned away by the officials at the same consulate when he went to apply for the passport of his new born daughter. He was told to drive 150 kms to Abu Dhabi and apply for his daughter’s passport at the consulate there because the Dubai consulate had stopped accepting any new passport applications as it already had a backlog of over 7000 pending passport applications.
News emerged later, that people had been waiting for over 40 days to receive their new passports and many were unable to get their UAE visas renewed due to this reason. The reason for the whole issue being that the Assistant Director of Machine Readable Passport was suddenly transferred by Pakistan’s Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, and no one at the consulate had the password to process the data resulting in the backlog of thousands of applications piled up at the consulate.
No, this is not a joke.
This was the reason stated by the Dubai consulate of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan for giving anguish to thousands of Pakistanis living in Dubai. You can go ahead and face-palm yourself! I will not go into the details of why this excuse is extremely lame and wrong at so many different levels and even before I state the reasons why this government has yet again proved to be inept at providing even basic services to its citizens.
Let me first narrate my own experience at the very consulate that is the subject of the above news.
It was in June last year, when I visited the Pakistan consulate in Dubai to get my passport renewed to enable my new employer to apply for a work visa for me. My friends and colleagues had advised me to arrive at the consulate early in the morning as the waiting line is usually very long. 500-600 people visit the consulate daily for passport renewals.
I recall that I reached the consulate around an hour and a half before its opening time, and was amazed to see that the consulate was already filled to its maximum capacity and the waiting line was extended beyond the pavements outside the consulate.
A person with a pen and paper was writing down names of people waiting in line and giving out numbers for the order in which the people would be attended to. There are a lot of other embassies in the area and I could not see a similar scene outside any of them. Most of the people waiting in line were blue-collar workers and some of them had been waiting outside the consulate since as early as 3:00 am! They told me that they had been turned away by the consulate officials a few days earlier because the consulate had run out of time to attend to all the people waiting in line.
Summers in Dubai are not very kind at the best of times and the temperatures were touching 40oC on that day. I had to wait on the pavement without any shade for around two hours before I even got the chance to enter the consulate building.
Little did I know that my ordeal was far from over.
The waiting area inside the consulate was very badly maintained with people even sitting on the floor waiting for their number to be called up. There were pedestal fans in corners but they were hardly enough to counter the searing heat of the Dubai sun. The wait for my turn wasn’t the worst thing about the whole ordeal. It was, in fact, the attitude of the officials working at the consulate.
It seemed as though they were running a charity and not providing a paid service to the citizens of their own nation. At one point, the staff even shut all the counters and went off to celebrate someone’s birthday while the people outside waited for more than an hour before the processing started once again!
The lack of professionalism and extremely rude behaviour did not end at that.
A labourer who did not have proper change to pay his passport processing fees was rudely turned away and asked to come back with the correct change. It wasn’t the fact that he was turned away, but the way he was actually turned away.
An official let lose a tirade of insults at the person ending with,
"Pata nahin kahan kahan se aa jaatay hain muunh utha ke"
(I don’t know where all these people come from)
It took me well over eight hours to get my application submitted and it was an experience that left me wondering whether our government officials actually value the time and priorities of their own citizens. This is the same question that has come to my mind again after reading the aforementioned report and hearing my brother’s own account with the same consulate officials.
Consulates are set up in foreign countries to assist and provide various services to the citizens who are residing in or visiting those foreign countries. We need not look any further than India for a good example of this, because I believe the Indian mission in the UAE has multiple passport/visa centres across the region and even in malls to facilitate their citizens and others wishing to travel to the country.
Unfortunately, the concept of providing quality public services seems to be lost on the officials of the Pakistani government. I have heard many stories of people suffering at the hands of officials working at various Pakistan embassies/consulates throughout the world and the Dubai consulate seems to be the worst of the lot.
I sincerely hope that concrete measures are taken by the government to resolve the issue of backlog of passports at the Dubai consulate and to improve the level of service at not only the said consulate but also at other public service offices around the world.
This article originally appeared here.
Read more by Faraz here or follow him on Twitter @eff_eche