Pakistani citizens are facing difficulty securing new passports as the country's scarcity of lamination paper has resulted in a nationwide shortage of the travel document, The Express Tribune reported on Wednesday.
It reported, quoting the Directorate General of Immigration & Passports (DGI&P) in Pakistan, that the lamination paper in Pakistan is imported from France which is used in passports.
Zain Ijaz, a resident of Gujrat in Pakistan, had a long-standing dream of studying in the United Kingdom.
When he finally secured admission to a university in the UK, it seemed like his dream was within reach. However, an extraordinary delay in obtaining his passport now threatens to shatter his aspirations.
The Express Tribune reported that thousands like Ijaz, who need the green-coloured book for travelling abroad for study, work, or leisure are stuck, with no end to their ordeal presently in sight.
"I was all set to move to Dubai for work soon. My family and I were beyond ecstatic that our fortunes would finally change but the mismanagement of DGI&P seems to have cost me my golden ticket out poverty and this country," bemoaned Gul, who belongs to a far-flung area in Punjab.
Hira, a student from Peshawar, can relate to Gul's ordeal. "My student visa for Italy was recently approved and I had to be in the country in October.
“However, the unavailability of a passport robbed me of an opportunity to leave," a visibly upset Hira complained, further adding that it was unfair that she was paying the price for a government department's inefficiency.
It is pertinent to mention that this inefficiency is not a one-off event. Back in 2013, passport printing came to a similar grinding halt due to the DGI&P owing money to printers and a lack of lamination papers, The Express Tribune reported.
When asked about DGI&P's inefficiency, Qadir Yar Tiwana, the Director General for Media of the Ministry of Interior, the parent ministry of DGI&P, informed that the government was doing its best to navigate the crisis.
"The situation will soon be under control and passport issuance will continue as normal," assured Tiwana, further adding that the department had already witnessed a steady decline in the backlog.
It seems that regional passport offices in different cities are also in the dark about a concrete timeline.
For instance, a senior officer of the passport office in Peshawar, disclosed to The Express Tribune under the condition of anonymity that they could presently only process 12 to 13 passports per day as compared to 3,000 to 4,000 passports per day previously and that they had no idea when the pendency would be improved. "People may have to wait for another month or two," added the official.
Whereas, Director Passports and Immigration at the Zonal Office Saddar, Karachi, Saeed Ahmed Abbasi, when asked for a timeline, declined to comment, stating that officially he was not in a position to give an answer.