ISLAMABAD - The menace of fake visas business is on the rise again after a lull when media reports had persuaded the authorities to launch a crackdown on fake visa agents a few months back. TheNation has learnt that unauthorised visa agents, who were fleecing the masses, were mushrooming again in different areas of twin cities, thus giving a bad name to those visa agents who are operating in accordance with the law. Among various sectors where fake agents are found include, G-9 Markaz, Aabpara, Blue Area, Commercial Market, Chandni Chowk and Murree Road. It merits mentioning here that Senate's Standing Committee on Interior had taken stern action on the news items that were published in TheNation last summer, related to fake visa business. The Standing Committee had directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) officials to take action against all those visa agents who were involved in the heinous trade of fleecing the masses by gobbling hefty amounts of money in the form of visa fees, besides deceiving them by means of using delaying tactics regarding the issuance of visas, false documentation and visa processing. A survey of the aforementioned venues revealed that the perpetrators in the form of visa operators that were not registered with FIA were emerging again. Moreover, majority of them lacks manpower, equipment, infrastructure and proper mechanism to carry out the business. Most of the visa agents at G-9 Markaz operate on makeshift basis sans any proper set-up. The locals of the area told this correspondent that these agents were charging Rs 2,000 to Rs 5,000 for filling-in visa forms only. While talking to TheNation, residents of G-9 Sector said these agents attract customers by making false promises of sending them abroad. However, all these dealers can do is to only fill-in the forms and charge money at will. They are not capable of visa processing and fulfilling other liabilities related to visa requirements, they added. Majority of Pakistanis seeks visas for European countries in pursuit of their educational, employment, immigration and business endeavours. However, seeking maximum advantage of the innocent applicants, the shrewd money-makers in the garb of visa agents are exploiting them to the hilt. "Actually most of the people are unaware of the technical hitches regarding visa processing and thus fall easy prey to fake visa agents," mentioned Muhammad Zahoor, who had paid Rs 35,000 to a local visa agent for work visa to Ukraine, but could never acquire it. "The visa agent told me that I would be in Ukraine very soon but it ended up on a bitter note," Zahoor lamented. A credible source confided to this scribe that some officials in the FIA and Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) were involved in the trade of fake visas. The source further mentioned that some low rank officials of Foreign Office were backing ghost visa dealers. "Some assistants and clerks in Foreign Office are carrying out this trade in connivance with FIA and visa agents. They create fake No Objection Certificates (NOC) from Foreign Office and use them as a tool to give authenticity to their otherwise hoax set-up," the official revealed. When contacted, sources in FIA said the investigation agency keeps a strict vigil on fake visa dealers off and on. We are aware of the fact that some fake visa dealers have deprived the masses of their hard earned money. We keep receiving such complaints. We launched a crackdown against them and they (visa agents) vanished. The problem is that they operate on makeshift basis and disappear when they see that they are being nabbed, they added. The FIA officials denied the allegations related to their involvement in the fake visa trade. All these allegations are baseless. If you have any proofs then please let us know and we would initiate a legal action against any official involved in any such malpractice, asserted some senior officials. However, mixed responses came from the officials of Foreign Office pertaining to the matter. Some officials categorically denied the allegations while others affirmed such reports. "You know five fingers are never equal. There are black sheep everywhere and Foreign Office is no exception. What you said about the visas' issue might be true," said a credible source in MOFA who refused to comment any further.