The passport office’s bureaucracy

Published: September 1, 2012
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LAHORE: I do not recall a single experience when I went to a government office and did not come back hating the bureaucracy that is our hallmark. One particular experience to the passport office, however, was perhaps the worst. I applied for a passport during the first week of Ramazan at the Garden Town branch in Lahore. I will not go into details about how that day was one of the worst days of my life. At the end, I was told that I could collect my passport on August 18. I was, however, also told that it may take longer than that.

I asked if there was a way to check on the phone, through a helpline or something like it, to see if my passport was ready and to avoid making a wasted trip, I was told that no such facility existed. The only way was to come to the passport office and wait in a long line again to see if the passport was ready.

After waiting a sufficient period of time — on August 30, 12 days after the due date of August 18 had passed — I went to collect my passport. When I got there, I was told that the passport was not ready because of “delays in Islamabad”. When I inquired as to when I should come back, the reply was that I could try again next week. I asked what if the passport wasn’t ready by next week and my visit is again wasted. To this, the official at the window said: “Umeed par duniya qaaem hai”.

For some family reasons, I needed the passport urgently so I asked if there is someone I could talk to about my case. I was made to meet a particular gentleman who sat in a large, mostly empty room with a table and a computer. He pointed towards the office of a female employee who I was told could actually track my case. It was around 10:30am and this female employee had yet to come to work. I stood there, staring at a big lock outside her door.

A man, however, quickly came to my rescue and guided me towards another office. This gentleman’s name was Iqbal Shahid and he sat in a room full of people with various requests and pleas. When my turn came, he was quick to shut me up, saying that he first needed to attend to others for whom something could actually be done. When my turn came again, he informed me that this office is only in charge of collecting data and that it was not responsible for the delays, nor could it do anything about it. When I told him about my particular emergency, the only words of comfort that he had for me was that there were others worse off than me, as if that would reduce my inconvenience.

Mr Shahid added that if I wanted to pursue my case further, I can take it up with the head office in Islamabad. For that, I was told I can again stand in yet another line to get the number of the head office. Why he could not just give me the number himself still eludes me. So off I went, to stand in yet another line and finally when my turn came, I asked the two people sitting there for the head office’s number upon which one of them immediately said that he did not have it. The other did not even bother replying. The end result of all of this was that I returned home, empty-handed, with no passport, hating the passport office’s bureaucracy.

I can only hope that in my next visit to the passport office, I actually get my travel document — which, just to remind readers, was due on August 18!

Talha Ahmad

Published in The Express Tribune, September 2nd, 2012. 

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Reader Comments (5)

  • Saad khawaja
    Sep 1, 2012 - 11:53PM

    I hear you brother. All i can do is sympathize with you. I have gone through similar pain and anguish at the hands of our folks at the Pakistani consulate in Toronto. You need to have contacts to make things work here. Otherwise chances are you might get your passport by Sept 18.

    All the best to you Talha!

    Warm Regards,
    Saad

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  • Thinker
    Sep 2, 2012 - 9:53AM

    Situation at Malaysian High Commission is perhaps worst in living world. It opens half an hour for two intervals every day. From where ever in country you have traveled you have to stay in heavy rain outside embassy building in a ques. Yet, if you are unlucky that half hour and you are still in ques; come next day morning little early! That means at five or six o clock in morning.

    However, you can buy forms selling outside; can find private contractors inside building filling forms for cash and also can get services of an agent to make it work; phones are not available for enquirers and these officers of HC treat you as slaves and sub-humans. Just pray that you don’t have to visit High Commission; the worst place in country where you are humiliated like dirty animals! Should someone read it; may congratulate Honorable High Commission and staff the great service to Pakistan!

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  • rashid khan
    Sep 2, 2012 - 10:03AM

    Yet, if you tried one of the passport agents sitting outside these offices, they’d have the passport ready for you within no time.
    You were trying to be honest and doing things the right way… well this is something people in such office abhor. They were getting their share of the pie – so next time you’ll be wise and go through those agents who have their kiosk around every passport office.

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  • Mj
    Sep 2, 2012 - 5:02PM

    I agree with the writer. Getting your passport made is one of the worst experiences you can have in Pakistan. I think cattle are treated better in our country than are the people at the passport office.

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  • huzaifa
    Sep 3, 2012 - 12:12PM

    @Saad khawaja:
    I had similar experience but some body pointed out a person who was the master key, I went to him and told my story, he gave me a phone number of an agent. I thought it to be below the dignity and got my passport through proper channel after a lot of tiring long Que standing and delay. Long Live Pakistan.

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