Zain Ijaz, a Gujrat resident, had cherished a lifelong dream of pursuing higher education in the United Kingdom. With his admission to a UK university, it seemed like his dream was within reach. However, a significant delay in obtaining his passport has now cast a cloud over his aspirations.
A nationwide shortage of lamination paper, a crucial component in passport production typically imported from France, as noted by the Directorate General of Immigration & Passports (DGI&P), has led to a widespread scarcity of this essential travel document.
Consequently, thousands of individuals, much like Ijaz, who rely on the green-colored passport for their overseas studies, employment, or leisure, find themselves in a distressing situation with no immediate solution in sight.
Gul, originating from a remote region in Punjab, expressed his sorrow, stating, “I was on the cusp of relocating to Dubai for work. My family and I were filled with hope for a change in our fortunes. However, the mismanagement within DGI&P seems to have jeopardized my opportunity to escape poverty and this country.”
Hira, a student from Peshawar, deeply understands Gul’s predicament. “My student visa for Italy was recently granted, and I needed to be in the country by October. Yet, the unavailability of a passport has thwarted my chance to go,” a visibly upset Hira expressed her frustration. She further conveyed her discontent, stating that it was unjust that she had to bear the consequences of a government department’s inefficiency.
It’s important to mention that this inefficiency is not an isolated occurrence. In 2013, passport printing experienced a similar halt due to the DGI&P’s outstanding debts to printers and a shortage of lamination paper.
When questioned about the inefficiency of the DGI&P, Qadir Yar Tiwana, the Director General for Media at the Ministry of Interior, the overseeing ministry of DGI&P, provided reassurance that the government was diligently working to address the crisis. “The situation will soon be brought under control, and passport issuance will return to normal,” Tiwana assured. He added that the department had already made substantial progress in reducing the backlog.
However, Faizan, a resident of North Nazimabad in Karachi, a city that handles approximately 3,000 passport applications daily, remained skeptical of Tiwana’s assurances. “I submitted my application over two months ago and have not yet to receive my passport,” he lamented. He went on to mention that he had to cancel his leisure trip due to the mismanagement of DGI&P.
In concurrence with Faizan’s sentiments, Amir, a resident of Gulshan-e-Iqbal in the city, shared his belief that the DGI&P was disseminating misleading information regarding the reduction of the passport backlog.
Amir recounted his experience to The Express Tribune, stating that he had received an SMS from the DGI&P last month, indicating that his passport was ready for collection. However, when he visited the designated office, the staff informed him that his passport had not arrived as of yet.
“I have yet to receive my passport, and I’ve had to cancel all my plans for international travel,” Amir revealed, expressing his frustration.
Muhammad Imran, another resident of Peshawar, found himself in a similar situation and was growing weary of the DGI&P’s false promises instead of transparent communication. “Since September, the passport office has been assuring that your passport will be ready the following week, but multiple weeks have passed without any progress,” noted Imran. He had to cancel his Umrah bookings in Saudi Arabia due to the absence of a clear timeline from his local passport office.
It is evident that regional passport offices in various cities are also grappling with uncertainty regarding a definitive timeline. For example, a senior officer from the Peshawar passport office, speaking on the condition of anonymity to The Express Tribune, disclosed that they can presently process only 12 to 13 passports each day, a significant drop from their previous capacity of 3,000 to 4,000 passports daily. The officer admitted that they had no insight into when this backlog would improve, adding, “People may need to endure another month or even two.”
On the other hand, Saeed Ahmed Abbasi, the Director of Passports and Immigration at the Zonal Office Saddar in Karachi, declined to provide a timeline when questioned.