ISLAMABAD   -  As part of the government’s anti-corruption drive, Ministry of Interior decided to make its visa extension facility online.

With ‘Pakistan Online Visa System’, the ministry is set to launch the project within the next 2 weeks. The ministry has proposed the online visa programme to the Prime Minister’s Office as part of the government’s efforts to curb corruption in the offices dealing with the public.

A senior official of the ministry said that with introduction of online visa extension system, the applicant will not need to visit the ministry for getting extension in his/her visa; rather he/she will apply online. When the ministry will decide fate of the application, the applicant will be able to check the approval or disapproval status online. In case of approval, the applicant will then visit office of Directorate General of Immigration and Passports to get the visa extension sticker pasted on his/her passport.

Pakistan’s foreign missions abroad used to issue visas of all categories to foreigners in their respective countries. However, Pakistan has placed all countries in two categories – A and B. For A category countries, the interior ministry has given powers to foreign missions to issue visas at their own. But for B category countries like India, a prior approval of interior ministry is mandatory for the foreign missions before issuing visas. However, if any foreigner wants to get any category of visa extended after getting entry into Pakistan, he or she has to submit an application to the ministry to get approval.

The Visa Section of the Ministry of Interior remained in the lime light in the past for its alleged involvement in corrupt practices for giving approvals in visa extension. During the last PML-N regime, former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had announced making visa extension facility online but he could not get his announcement implemented during his entire period.

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Establishment Division, Shehzad Arbab, and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability, Barrister Shahzad Akbar, recently held two meetings with all the federal secretaries asking them to bring proposals to purge corruption within their departments. They have directed all ministries and their attached departments to increase surveillance through CCTV cameras at those places where public dealing is involved so that the corrupt practices within the government departments could be curbed. They have also directed the ministries to remove all old faces from key positions that have reputation of being involved in corrupt practices.

In the light of this interaction, the Ministry of Interior submitted a number of proposals to the Prime Minister’s Office to purge corruption within the ministry and all its attached departments including National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), Islamabad Police, Islamabad Capital Territory Administration (ICTA), Passport Office, Federal Investigations Agency and civil armed forces (CAFs). As part of these proposals, the ministry decided to make its visa extension facility online.

The ministry has already made a major reshuffle in its visa section to curb alleged corruption and surveillance of this section has been increased through CCTV cameras.