Financial crisis: Expatriates continue to suffer over passport delay

-File photo

ISLAMABAD: The directorate of Immigration and Passports (I&P) is facing severe financial crisis and is likely to stop issuing passports after November 30, if the Finance Ministry failed to release required funds to directorate by November 30.

“The…directorate has a backlog of more than 200,000 passport applications that will increase if the Finance Minister further delays the release of funds,” Director-General (DG) I&P Wajid Bukhari told the Senate’s Standing Committee on Interior and Narcotics Control on Wednesday.

Bukhari said that the directorate was unable to issue passports because of non-issuance of funds by the Ministry of Finance.

“(The directorate) is receiving 10,000 to 15,000 applications on a daily basis,” he said.

According to him, the Security Printing Corporation of Pakistan (SPCP) issues 10,000 blank booklets to the directorate every day and if they issue 25,000 blank booklets per day, the department would be able to clear its backlog.

The meeting was presided over by Chairman of the Committee Senator Muhammad Talha Mehmood and attended, among others, by Senators Sardar Fateh Muhammad Muhammad Hassani, Sardar Ali Khan and additional secretary of the Ministry of Interior Saud Ahmad Aziz, DG I&P Wajid Bukhari, Deputy Coordinator of National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta) Arif Ikram.

Because of the financial crisis, Bukhari said, the directorate was unable to make payments to the SPCP, adding that it had curtailed the supply of blank passport booklets supply from the required 15,000 per day to 10,000, creating the backlog.

The DG I&P said that the directorate was generating a revenue of Rs14 billion, adding that its annual expenditure was just Rs970,000. He claimed that the office could clear its backlog in a month if their needs were met. In response, the committee recommended the government to release funds to the directorate to avert a crisis.

Bukhari said the directorate was also facing a manpower crunch, as more than 160 vacancies were lying vacant. The committee asked DG to differentiate parliamentarians’ passport from that of officials, as they were occasionally asked for NOC by airport authorities at international departure lounges.

The committee, meanwhile, expressed anger over the performance of National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta).

The committee observed that it had just compiled a research report and filmed a documentary on Swat over the past four years despite utilising allocations of Rs500 million.

Additional Secretary Interior Saud Ahmad Aziz said that the authority was the brainchild of Tariq Pervez, a retired police officer, adding that he had established it after he retired from the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). “He might quit Nacta, as he is not able to run the authority as he wanted”, he said.

Arif Ikram, the deputy coordinator of Nacta, informed the committee that in the post-9/11 scenario, there had been an unprecedented rise in militancy and terrorism in Pakistan. Following the example of developed countries, there s was need for creating a focal organisation to counter terrorism and extremism. The organization was envisaged to liaise between civilian and military intelligence agencies and coordinate efforts against terrorism and extremism in accordance with the government policy.

He said that the Prime Minister had approved the creation of Nacta under executive orders and the organization had been set up in December 2008. The draft legislation for Nacta was still pending for cabinet and parliament’s approval for achieving its objectives, he said.

Irkram said that the main responsibility of NACTA “is to collect information and intelligence and coordinate with all relevant stakeholders to formulate threat assessments”, besides coordinating and preparing comprehensive national counter terrorism and counter extremism strategies, develop action plans against terrorism and extremism and report to the federal government on their implementation, he said.

Highlighting Nacta’s various capacity-building initiatives, He said that Nacta was conducting a ‘study on flaws in terrorist prosecution’, adding that the authority had also conducted a research study on reforming Madressahs, adding that it had submitted various proposals to the Ministry of Interior.