ISLAMABAD - Acting Director General of Immigration and Passports Muhammad Safdar Monday surprised the Senate Standing Committee on Interior by saying that Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain had not yet applied for his fresh passport.
The Acting DG Passport gave this answer during the Senate committee that was held under the chairmanship of Senator Talha Mahmood, on a query of Shahi Syed of ANP who had asked as to why the passport was not being issued to MQM chief Altaf Hussain despite his repeated requests. He said, “Altaf Hussain had submitted no application for his passport issuance.”
Last month, Foreign Office Spokesperson Tasneem Aslam had informed during a press briefing that the government had received a request from MQM chief Altaf Hussain for issuance of his identity card and passport. She had said that the request had been forwarded to Ministry of Interior for its views. Later, the Ministry of Interior in a statement had said that MQM chief could apply for a passport after obtaining national identity card for overseas Pakistanis (NICOP).
According to some media reports, Altaf Hussain had applied for a Pakistani passport and identity card on April 4 as his previous documents had expired after he had got British nationality.
Senator Tallha Mahmood questioned from the Ministry of Interior about the status of his application, however, additional secretary of the ministry expressed his ignorance. The chair asked the DG Passports to submit a report about the application of MQM chief before the committee.
After the revelation of Acting DG Passport, Senator Shahi Syed in a lighter tone enquired from MQM lawmaker Syed Tahir Hussain Mashhadi if his party chief would come to Pakistan in case he gets his new passport.
“Whether he comes or not, Altaf Hussain was a Pakistani citizen and it is his right to get a passport,” said Tahir Mashhadi.
The committee also asked the DG Immigration to provide the list of people within a week to whom passport office had issued diplomatic and blue passports as well as inform it about the criteria for issuance of such passports. Senator Pervaiz Rashid claimed that in the past blue passports were issued to girlfriends, friends and property dealers. In the past unnecessary passport offices were formed on political basis and a list of these should be presented before the committee, he said.
He also asked the DG to also provide a list of 23 officials who were terminated in the past on corruption charges to ascertain that lower level staff was not made scapegoat.
The Acting DG Passport informed the committee that as many 902 aliens who managed to obtain Pakistani passports illegally during the last five years. He said in addition, 7726 individuals had been declared non-nationals by the Peshawar High Court, out of which 613 persons possessed machine-readable passports. All such non-nationals had been placed on the blacklist and their passports had been made inactive, he said. NADRA has also been informed for cancellation of their CNICs.
The DG said this wrongdoing was not from the passport office as the office issued passport on the basis of CNIC issued by NADRA.
The chair remarked that a small number of passports issued to aliens had been blocked. He said around two million aliens were holding CNICs and 70 percent of them had been issued passports.
The committee was informed that there was shortage of 500 staff in passport office at various posts. The officials of passport directorate told the committee that the number of passport offices across the country had been increased from 28 in 2004 to 93 while the MRP (machine readable passport) facility at diplomatic missions abroad had also been increased from 10 in 2004 to 24 now. The number will soon reach 33.
The meeting was also informed that lawmakers could simultaneously keep blue and green passports.