ISLAMABAD - The Ministry of Interior Tuesday taking two bold decisions announced to cancel all official passports issued during the last three years while violating rules and regulations and to issue new passports for a period of 10 years instead of five years.

There were authentic reports that the previous PPP regime had issued thousands of official passports to non-entitled persons ignoring rules and regulations. Former Directorate General, Immigration & Passports, Zulfiqar Cheema had once said that the previous government even issued official passports even to bicycles mechanics.

Federal Minister for Interior and Narcotics Control, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, took these decisions during his visit to the Directorate General of Immigration & Passports here on Tuesday. The Director General (DG), Immigration & Passports, Sikandar Sultan Raja, briefed the minister on the organisational set-up and the functions of the directorate. He highlighted the key achievements and accomplishments of the department.

To facilitate public and improve performance, the minister directed the DG passports to initiate a SMS-based service for the tracking of the passports within next seven days and a home delivery service in six major cities of Pakistan. He directed that the construction of new offices of passports and renovation of old buildings be completed at the earliest to improve the customer service.

A new help-line complemented by a facilitation desk would be set up at Islamabad office to address complaints of the public regarding passports, Nisar ordered. He directed to make policy guidelines for setting up of new passport offices. He noticed the shortage of passport offices in Sindh and ordered to produce a report on setting up new offices within the province to facilitate the public.

The federal minister asked the directorate to reconsider the fines imposed on lost passports and rationalise the charges. He instructed the directorate to draft a clear-cut policy on citizenship certificates and modernise the visa extension process and to expedite the process of setting up state-of-the-art call centres to automatically cater to the queries of the citizens. He also asked for a priority list regarding the setting up of foreign machine readable passport offices and visa issuance facilities at foreign destinations, so that the deadline of November 2015 set by ICAO can be met in time.

Ch Nisar directed the staff not to cave in to any undue pressure and ordered for an enquiry into politically influenced decisions taken in the past. He also asked the directorate to improve its functions and streamline the process to completely eliminate corruption and assist the citizens of Pakistan. The DG briefed the minister about certain issues that are faced by the directorate and requested for immediate attention by the ministry.

Speaking to the session, the minister stated that the officers of the department should always start with the surmise that the “public is always right”. He said that the staff needs to perform to its utmost and always remember three key principles in their service; there shall be no tolerance for corruption, they should always work in accordance to the law, and to remember that their service is towards the state of Pakistan.

The DG Passports informed the minister that the directorate had completed the process of replacing manual passport with machine-readable passport system. He also briefed about the special arrangements that have been made for the passport issuance to the pilgrims. The directorate has successfully cleared the entire backlog regarding the printing of passport and issuance of citizenship certificates, the minister was told.