ISLAMABAD - Interior Ministry on Monday suspended its “visa on arrival” facility in a bid to streamline the visa regime.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan in a meeting decided to suspend the facility of “visa on arrival” under the guise of landing permits, an Interior Ministry spokesperson said.

A senior officer of the ministry explained that suspension of the “visa on arrival” facility would not affect Pakistan’s bilateral visa-waiver agreements on diplomatic and official passports with different countries.

“Visas on arrivals” were issued to those persons who used to come with high-level foreign dignitaries, he said, adding that Pakistan had been issuing 72-hour landing permits for such persons or officials.

From now they would be asked to come to Pakistan only with valid visas.

The interior minister is of the view that if no country gave such facility to Pakistan then why we relax rules for others, while using discretionary powers, the officer said.

This laxity cannot be allowed in this manner as this can give rise to serious irregularities, Nisar remarked in the meeting.

The minister, while chairing the meeting, also directed the interior ministry to revise and update visa rules besides introduction of online visa regime to bring in transparency and minimise discretion in the whole process.

The interior ministry is in the process of establishing a central database of visas issued to foreigners by making the visa system online after claims of former Pakistani ambassador to the US that he had issued visas to the US officials to haunt and kill al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. 

Chaudhry Nisar in the meeting also asked for strict implementation of rules and regulations both in the ministry and its attached departments.

The secretary interior, chairman National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra), advocate general Islamabad, chief commissioner Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), acting inspector-general of police Islamabad, and senior officers of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the Ministry of Interior attended the meeting.

The minister said that a lot more was needed to be done to streamline the visa and immigration regime and remove various lacunas.

With launching of the online visa application and online visa regime, any anomaly in issuance of visas would be effectively eliminated, he said.

The minister said that central visa database was essential as it would enable the state institutions to keep a tab on all those travelling to Pakistan on any visa category.

He also directed speedy completion of the concept paper for modern Immigration and Border Control Department to ensure strict surveillance of Pakistan’s land, sea and air routes as well as entry/exit points on borders.

The minister observed that as a first step, a separate body of Immigration and Border Management should be set up under the FIA.

The FIA officials gave a detailed briefing to the meeting over recoveries in various cases including human trafficking and from various petroleum marketing companies in lieu of petroleum levy.

It was informed that the FIA had recovered 2.513 billion rupees in various cases in 2016.

An amount of Rs2.13 billion has also been recovered and deposited in national treasury in inquiry into recovery of petroleum levy.

The recoveries by the FIA in 2010 were Rs528 million, Rs690 million in 2011 and Rs110 million in 2012.

The recoveries by the FIA during the present government’s tenure stood at Rs2.23 billion in 2013, Rs2.27 billion in 2014, and Rs6.39 billion in 2015, the ministry claims.

The meeting was informed that a fine to the tune of Rs94 million was imposed on various foreign airlines for bringing in passengers without valid Pakistani visas, and such airlines were directed to take back hundreds of such passengers.

On issue of action against individuals involved in blasphemous content on the social media, the minister reiterated that blasphemous and terrorism-related content on social media were both intolerable for the state of Pakistan, and directed that legal assistance of respective countries should also be solicited against those who are promoting or funding such an ill-activity from abroad.

The chair directed the FIA to continue working with the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) for removing all those social media pages, which could cause religious unrest in the society or glorifying terrorism or terrorists on the internet.

The ICT Administration gave a detailed briefing on various steps taken for enhanced security of the capital including that of shrines, and various entry and exit points.

The minister directed the ICT Administration to ensure establishment of two free lanes meant for smooth entry and exit of the commuters travelling between the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad.

Free lanes would help the citizens using RFID technology to enter capital without any hassle.