ISLAMABAD - The federal government has tasked the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to probe alleged irregularities in the award of visa processing contract to a private company Gerry's by the Pakistan High Commission in London.

A spokesperson of the Interior Ministry said that Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had expressed serious reservations over the alleged irregularities in the visa processing agreement existing between Pakistan High Commission, London and the Gerry's and had directed the FIA to probe the matter.

The visa drop box contract for getting Pakistani visa in UK was awarded to Gerry's by the Pakistan High Commission in London during the previous PPP regime. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had already shown tough posture against the alleged corruption scandals committed during PPP tenure. FIA would present a report to the minister after the completion of inquiry.

An official of the ministry said that the minister during his visit to UK last year had received complaints about the difficulties faced by overseas Pakistanis in getting Pakistani visas through Gerry's. "The question is why the Pakistani High Commission had given contract to the private company when it had no security threat in London," he said adding that foreign embassies in Islamabad had given visa-processing contracts to private companies because of security threats. Similarly visa applicants in UK have to pay extra visa processing fee to the Gerry's besides normal visa fee. The minister also directed the ministries of interior and foreign affairs to ensure that in future no high commissioner or ambassador could enter into such an agreement, on its own, just for the sake of protecting financial interests of someone, the statement of the ministry said. He said that extorting extra money from the visa applicants was unacceptable and regrettable.

The minister asked the concerned that it should be ascertained on legal grounds whether the agreement could be cancelled. If for some reasons it is not possible then a system should be worked out so as to reduce the visa fee to the minimum after expiry of the present agreement, he directed.