Four people were arrested for vandalising the Regional Passport Office (RPO) and causing a riot here on Wednesday.
When some applicants asked why their passports had not been delivered, a staffer allegedly threatened them and told them to “get out”.
Several applicants then vandalised the office furniture and chanted slogans against the passport office staff. They also beat up several staff members.
RPO Assistant Director Rana Yasir called the Civil Lines police station. A heavy contingent headed by SHO Imran Younas reached the office and baton charged the protesters. Four protesters were arrested for causing a riot, damaging public property and hampering work at the RPO.
The assistant director told The Express Tribune that they tried their best to facilitate the applicants. However, the preparation of passports was a centralised process. “The passports are sent to us from Islamabad. More than 40,000 applications for passports are now pending at the RPO,” he said.
The head office at Islamabad has said there is a shortage of passport booklets due to a lack of funds, Yasir said. “The head office told us that 15,000 booklets are required daily to meet the demand for passports, but the Security Printing Corporation only sends 5,000 booklets each day,” said Yasir.
Nearly 1,000 applications for passports are received at the office every day, Assistant Director Rana Yasir told The Express Tribune. The passports are to be delivered in 30 days, on an urgent basis, or 105 days, for a regular fee, he said.
everal protesters claimed that their cases had been pending for over four months.
Muhammad Saleem, an applicant from Ramdewali, said, “I have been visiting the RPO for three months for a passport for which I paid urgent fee. They still haven’t delivered it to me.”
“When I asked a staff member for an explanation, he told me to get out,” Saleem said.
An applicant from Sarshmeer, Muhamamd Din, 59, said, “My travel agent told me to get a machine readable passport so I could get a visa to perform umrah. I deposited the fee for an urgent passport but it has been four months and I still haven’t received it.”
The staff at the passport office is extremely uncooperative, he added.
“I am told to wait in a long queue every time I visit the office, only to be told that it is not ready,” Din said.
Nagina Raees, a young woman from Aminpur, said, “My husband works in Dubai. I had applied for a passport on an urgent basis so I could visit him. I have been waiting for the passport for more than four months now.”
Published in The Express Tribune, March 28th, 2013.