ISLAMABAD - No end to the miseries of Pakistanis planning to travel abroad is in sight, as the backlog of passports has reached up to 0.2 million and the Ministry of Finance has so far not released funds to the Interior Ministry to be further given to Printing Corporation of Pakistan to get more passport booklets.
Syed Wajid Bokhari, Director General Directorate Immigration and Passports, Wednesday informed this to Senate Standing Committee on Interior. The DG Passports further said the major delay in the issuance of passport was due to the shortage of booklets published by the Printing Corporation of Pakistan (PCP) as the Ministry of Interior has to owe outstanding dues to the Corporation.
He also made it clear that PCP would stop giving passport booklets to the Directorate if its outstanding dues were not cleared till November 30 and only two days had left but finance ministry had so far not released the funds. Giving the details, the DG Passports told the committee that PCP had started giving booklets to the Directorate on the assurance that its previous outstanding dues would be cleared by the cut-off date.
“We have the capacity of issuing 14,000 to 15,000 passports daily but backlog rose up during the past months due to non-issuance of booklets to the Directorate due to shortage of funds,” he said. He said that if Corporation would continue its supply of booklets, then it would take at least two months to clear the backlog of 0.2 millions as they could issue 3000 passports daily from the backlog. “Because the Directorate was receiving 7000 to 8000 requests for issuance of fresh passports daily,” he added. He also said that the governments used to get Rs 14 billion income annually from the head of passport fee and the Directorate ‘s expenses were just eight per cent of this total amount. The committee members were surprised as to why Finance Ministry was reluctant to release funds for the department, which was its cash cow.
Additional Secretary Ministry of Interior Saud Ahmed told the committee that total outstanding dues of the PCP were 370.837 million and the net shortfall was 726 million. “If the Finance Ministry releases Rs 597 million, the total money allocated to the Ministry of Interior for Passport Directorate then we can cope with this problem,” he further said.
Chairman Committee Senator Talha Mahmood observed that corrupt practices were on the rise in the passport offices due to the backlog issue.
Later, DG Passports informed the committee that Passport Directorate was short of strength as in 2008 it had only 32 offices throughout the country and now the number had increased up to 72 and another 10 offices were ready to be inaugurated. “But earlier due to a ban by the federal government on fresh recruitments and now a stay order issued by Islamabad High Court in this connections, recruitments could not be made in the Directorate,” he said adding that “We at same time are facing financial crunch and manpower crunch”.
The committee directed that 25000 passport booklets should be given to the Passport Directorate daily by PCP and the Ministry of Finance e to release the total funds allocated in this regard before November 30. He directed the DG to make sure hat every one should get passport on merit with respect to time period and no corruption should be involved in this matter.
The committee decided that its chairman along with members would personally meet with the Finance Secretary the same day to solve the issue of release of funds.