ISLAMABAD - The new UK visa policy that is scheduled to be launched tomorrow (Monday) has been marked with a fresh controversy pertaining to the harassment of applicants by some extortionists who gobbled money from people in the name of British High Commission and Gerrys International, an international visa processing company. Apart from the reservations that Pakistans Government holds regarding the launch of new visa policy that would reportedly deprive a significant number of Pakistanis to get visas for UK due to the introduction of stringent visa rules, the reports regarding the alleged harassment at the hands of some extortionists is yet another blow to the new policy. According to details, hundreds of Pakistanis intend to apply for UK visa under existing policy rules so as to avoid being 'short-listed under new rules. Consequently, maximum number of applicants tried to get appointments with Gerrys International in order to submit their visa applications and related documents by February 19, which was last working day under existing visa policy rules. Reports gathered from multiple sources revealed that some individuals who introduced themselves as employees of Gerrys International and British High Commission were demanding hefty bribes from the applicants, outside Gerrys office in sector G-9, against arranging appointments for them at Gerrys by or before the aforementioned date. An applicant was reportedly asked for Rs 20,000 against the same favour. As the last date under existing visa rules approached nearer, the 'services rates of these 'employees kept increasing and an unfortunate Pakistani student was asked to pay Rs 600,000 to a 'well-connected visa agent who assured the poor student to get an appointment on February 19 on account of his 'links with the influential persons in the BHC and Gerrys. The applicants, most of them being the students, have to pay exorbitant dues for the respective schools, colleges or universities they intend to get enrolled in, besides the legal visa fees, apart from the bribes they were compelled to pay. Most of the applicants who applied till Friday last are those who fear rejection once new visa rules are introduced, although they meet all the legal requirements and want to go abroad for studies in pursuit of their educational endeavours. This development pertaining to change in UK visa policy is crucial so far as its timing is concerned. At a time when Pakistani government particularly PM Gilani had pressed UK authorities not to single out Pakistanis in visa related matters, devising strict visa rules to disqualify majority of Pakistani applicants would slap an insult to Governments demands. In his meeting with British Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Grayling, Pakistans Premier Gilani had strongly demanded of United Kingdom not to discriminate against Pakistani students, businessmen and travellers while processing their visa cases. When British High Commissions Spokesperson George Sheriff was informed by this journalist about the reported harassment and fleecing of Pakistani applicants by such people who were associating themselves with BHC and Gerrys International, he said, These people are not representatives of BHC or UK Border Agency. Anyone who is charging any amount is unscrupulous agent, we stress that you do not need an agent to make a UK visa application. If you need help, choose an agent carefully, appointments at visa application centres are free. Applicants should report these agents to police. Asked if applicants were informed beforehand through advertisements or any due procedure about the launch of new visa policy so as to avoid last minute inconveniences, George said, Im not sure but I think there was a notification at UKBAs website about changes in visa rules. However, when navigated through, the official website of UKBA did not contain any relevant information about any expected fresh changes. It only said, The Immigration Rules were last updated in January 2010. Strangely, although the opening hours of telephone enquiries as mentioned at Gerrys website were Monday - Saturday, 08:00 a.m. to 12 p.m., the prescribed official number was unavailable when tried on Saturday evening to get comments. The answering machine spoke, Sorry the maximum number of calls for this number has been reached thank you good bye.