Pakistan’s consulate in Dubai continues to make Pakistani expats suffer

Published: November 27, 2012

A labourer applicant who did not have proper change to pay his passport processing fees was rudely turned away and asked to come back with the correct change. PHOTO: FILE

On November 2, Gulf News ran a report about the problems being faced by the Pakistani expat community in Dubai due to the delay in processing of passports by the Pakistan consulate in Dubai.

This report came a day after my brother was rudely turned away by the officials at the same consulate when he went to apply for the passport of his new born daughter. He was told to drive 150 kms to Abu Dhabi and apply for his daughter’s passport at the consulate there because the Dubai consulate had stopped accepting any new passport applications as it already had a backlog of over 7000 pending passport applications.

News emerged later, that people had been waiting for over 40 days to receive their new passports and many were unable to get their UAE visas renewed due to this reason. The reason for the whole issue being that the Assistant Director of Machine Readable Passport was suddenly transferred by Pakistan’s Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, and no one at the consulate had the password to process the data resulting in the backlog of thousands of applications piled up at the consulate.

No, this is not a joke.

This was the reason stated by the Dubai consulate of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan for giving anguish to thousands of Pakistanis living in Dubai. You can go ahead and face-palm yourself! I will not go into the details of why this excuse is extremely lame and wrong at so many different levels and even before I state the reasons why this government has yet again proved to be inept at providing even basic services to its citizens.

Let me first narrate my own experience at the very consulate that is the subject of the above news.

It was in June last year, when I visited the Pakistan consulate in Dubai to get my passport renewed to enable my new employer to apply for a work visa for me. My friends and colleagues had advised me to arrive at the consulate early in the morning as the waiting line is usually very long. 500-600 people visit the consulate daily for passport renewals.

I recall that I reached the consulate around an hour and a half before its opening time, and was amazed to see that the consulate was already filled to its maximum capacity and the waiting line was extended beyond the pavements outside the consulate.

A person with a pen and paper was writing down names of people waiting in line and giving out numbers for the order in which the people would be attended to. There are a lot of other embassies in the area and I could not see a similar scene outside any of them. Most of the people waiting in line were blue-collar workers and some of them had been waiting outside the consulate since as early as 3:00 am! They told me that they had been turned away by the consulate officials a few days earlier because the consulate had run out of time to attend to all the people waiting in line.

Summers in Dubai are not very kind at the best of times and the temperatures were touching 40oC on that day. I had to wait on the pavement without any shade for around two hours before I even got the chance to enter the consulate building.

Little did I know that my ordeal was far from over.

The waiting area inside the consulate was very badly maintained with people even sitting on the floor waiting for their number to be called up. There were pedestal fans in corners but they were hardly enough to counter the searing heat of the Dubai sun. The wait for my turn wasn’t the worst thing about the whole ordeal. It was, in fact, the attitude of the officials working at the consulate.

It seemed as though they were running a charity and not providing a paid service to the citizens of their own nation. At one point, the staff even shut all the counters and went off to celebrate someone’s birthday while the people outside waited for more than an hour before the processing started once again!

The lack of professionalism and extremely rude behaviour did not end at that.

A labourer who did not have proper change to pay his passport processing fees was rudely turned away and asked to come back with the correct change. It wasn’t the fact that he was turned away, but the way he was actually turned away.

An official let lose a tirade of insults at the person ending with,

“Pata nahin kahan kahan se aa jaatay hain muunh utha ke”

(I don’t know where all these people come from)

It took me well over eight hours to get my application submitted and it was an experience that left me wondering whether our government officials actually value the time and priorities of their own citizens. This is the same question that has come to my mind again after reading the aforementioned report and hearing my brother’s own account with the same consulate officials.

Consulates are set up in foreign countries to assist and provide various services to the citizens who are residing in or visiting those foreign countries. We need not look any further than India for a good example of this, because I believe the Indian mission in the UAE has multiple passport/visa centres across the region and even in malls to facilitate their citizens and others wishing to travel to the country.

Unfortunately, the concept of providing quality public services seems to be lost on the officials of the Pakistani government. I have heard many stories of people suffering at the hands of officials working at various Pakistan embassies/consulates throughout the world and the Dubai consulate seems to be the worst of the lot.

I sincerely hope that concrete measures are taken by the government to resolve the issue of backlog of passports at the Dubai consulate and to improve the level of service at not only the said consulate but also at other public service offices around the world.

This article originally appeared here.

Read more by Faraz here or follow him on Twitter @eff_eche

Faraz Hasan

Faraz Hasan

A Chartered Accountant from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan and is currently working in the UK & Ireland division of one of the big 4 audit firms. His interests include travelling, cricket and photography. He tweets @eff_eche (twitter.com/eff_eche) and blogs at farazhasan.wordpress.com

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Parvez

    ……something wrong here because the same consulate is reported to have issued hundereds of visas, very quickly, passibly about a year and a half back to people who decidedly were not tourists. So they can be efficient if they want to be.
    Also read somewhere that the head honcho there is a close buddy of the ‘big’ man here and as the song goes ‘Sain ka dost bhe sain , ah ahan.’Recommend

  • Pessimist

    Yours is an unfortunate story but how Pakistani citizens treat each other. Living abroad and having visited my Pakistani consulate a number of times I can safely say the following:

    The staff seem to suffer from a ‘superiority’ complex i.e they think they are better than us. They assume they are foreigners and have the right to boss us around. I have honestly no idea why this is so. We are both Pakistanis and we are both foreigners. Working in an embassy or consulate does not automatically make you a citizen of that country. If I was to be crude I can state that the applications provide more to the foreign country in economic terms than the embassy staff. It’s WE who should be treated with more respect. Urghhhh… Recommend

  • De

    All true!! One more thing!! I remember when I went to renew my passport, this man took an official on the side and asked him why do u guys take so long and why is everything so disorganized. So the official was like we have submitted the application several times to the govt asking them to renovate this consulate but they never accept it!Recommend

  • Nadir

    Staff at diplomatic missions abroad are posted their to pull out the red carpet when some VIP, be it political, military or civil shows up in that country. Genrerals, MNA’s. Federal Secretary’s and their families must be pampered when abroad. That is what these missions are for. Though more seriously, the underpaid and demotivated staff of these missions have no incentive to serve overseas Pakistanis. Its a complete mess. Though I am sure the vast majority of Pakistani’s in the UAE, i.e. the labourers, would still envy your situation. Atleast you have you passport to renew, theirs is taken away.Recommend

  • A. Khan

    I knew it. Rehman Malik had to be involved in this in some way.Recommend

  • Traveller

    Pakistanis are treated with disgust attitude by Pakistanis. Here in Pakistan, an ordinary passport is delivered after 90 days (3 MONTHS), disgusting. And if you dare to ask any of the officials in Passport office that why so much delay, they say “Lamination sheets khatam ho gai hai Islamabad mein” Recommend

  • Pakistani

    i never face problem ppl cant just wait for some time and cant stand in que as they thnk they r again in homeland where every thng is done n hasel way.comparing the space and staff with number of applicant i thnk these guys r doing great job.I went thrice to pk counsalate and it took my max 2 hours each time to complete my applicationRecommend

  • Ambreen

    I am a Dow medical college grad and had to suffer the same consequence while getting my original medical degree attested at the above mentioned consulate. It was an horrible experience to say the least. 4 hour wait just to get a signature and plus my degree was thrown aside for those 4 hours till the person responsible came and signed it. All that time i kept eyeing my original degree as all the originals were thrown away in one corner and anyone could have misplaced it. Unfortunately my husband had to leave for work and you can just imagine how it feels to be a lone woman in that place. sigh…it really felt like home away from home (satire) .The govt really really needs to make the consulate more people-friendly and more women-friendly so that we don’t feel uncomfortable in out own country’s consulate.Recommend

  • Ahmad

    “..whether our government officials actually value the time and priorities of their own citizens.”

    No they do not. And you don’t really need to be in Dubai to figure that out :)

    P.S. It seems Rahman Malik is at the center of everything that happens inside, and now even outside our country! Recommend

  • http://farazhasan.wordpress.com Faraz H

    @Parvez: I have actually heard that the visa section of this consulate is better than the passport section probably because the visa section has to deal with non-Pakistanis. You know our countrymen have a tendency of treating our own people poorly while treating others as royalty!

    @Pakistani: The consulate may have their good days as well but unfortunately my own experience and of other people I know has generally been bad. I know people who have lived in Dubai for over a decade and all of them generally complain about their experience with this consulate. Recommend

  • Shamy

    Very good article. My brother faced a similar situation at the pakistani consulate in Paris. He got the passport back in 3 months…yes you heard that right…3 months for an urgent passport.Recommend

  • http://twitter.com/c_dose Caffeine Dose

    AAAhhh, was dying to write similar piece so that any action could be taken. It seems that the Consul General is either sleeping or is busy in pleasing his masters in Pakistan. The author is very right and there are other things which I can point out. I visited last year in October to renew my passport. I reached at around 10 am. I was told that my number is around 470 and currently the active number is around 250, he told me better to come early next day to get quick processing. I reached 730 am next morning and the number I was given was 443 and the active number was around 50-60, Was shocked and asked the gate keeper who was handing over computerized tickets (strangely all tickets were taken out from the machine and he was handing over from the bunch instead of taking it out from machine in realtime) Clueless I was told take the ticket, go to complete any of my personal work and come around 10 am (Thanks for his great advice). When I returned, I was told that I need to submit my mobile before entering the consulate, fine, I submitted it knowing that I wont be able to contact my brother who was waiting for me outside in the car. Strange was the message written on the receipt “If your mobile is lost, consulate wont be responsible…”What??????, Fine I trust you…Entered the consulate, chairs were broken and there was a suffocation inside the waiting area. All the ladies had to pass through the men waiting area, where all type of men are sitting to stare women from the hair to the toe, well that’s how a typical Pakistani territory looks like. Suddenly I saw the ticket of the person sitting next to me…..guess what??the ticket number was around 330 and he came first time in the morning at around 9 am. Upon enquiring I got to know why all the tickets were taken out from the machine. What actually is happening there that early numbers are only given to the references and sourceful people (perhaps also to those who can bribe that gate keeper or may be higher officials). Whenever you come, if you dont have source, you will be served late….. Fine, my turn came, I submitted the old passport, ok where is the receipt??? Sorry there is no receipt, you will be called,What????What if it gets lost??? No answer….fine, move on, There is a narrow passage where there are two counters 1)old passport submission and fee colleciton counter, now imagine how can u stay for long in a narrow passage with poor ac. Fine, shocked again, why??, because I still have to get another ticket and my name was called after an hour. Photo taken, thumb impression taken, now I have to get the signature on the form from the director. Shocked again, why, there is another que, waited for half hour to collect my form. Another surprize, where is the copy of NICOP, I was asked. Sorry I dont have, ok go and get it…Ok from where???? Thats’ your problem…..urghhhh….for 15 minutes I was searching for photocopier….I cannot go outside and there is no photocopier inside and most of the officials have left as it is 3 pm. There was only one guy upstairs who had photocopy machine. I LITERALLY BEGGED HIM, with frustration and anger, he copied the NICOP, then finally i was able to get the form processed….So was served by my honourable consul general with no food, suffocation, rude behaviour, unfair treatment and frustration of long delays. I couldnt thought anything else except to scream at the gate keeper, which I actually did, but the response was “Jo karna hay karlo”………..Recommend

  • Tatlah

    Thanks for raising Voice.
    I am living in Dubai. Trust me i have been there couple ov times, its pathetic and almost embarrasing to be infront ov pak councelate. Other nationalities are making humour ov us. For God sake its not jungle.Rest the place if u dont have respect ov ur flag. Recommend

  • Baba Ji

    Well I don’t want to spoil the show and go against the flow but I have a bit different experience of Abu Dhabi embassy passport section … the staff was highly efficient, quick and were conducting the whole operation very effectively … we went there as a family of six and were done with the process in about 20 minutes (seriously) …. yes at times I could see a tinge of frustration in the staff at counters when their speed of working was disturbed by obnoxious demands from my Pakistani brothers …. come on guys … give these people some credit as they are handling a really big number of people daily and that too unfortunately is uneducated lot …. yes there is a room for lot of improvement where government can provide better facilities there but overall under present circumstances the staff is definitely doing a great job … shabaash !!!Recommend

  • Zaraf

    Absolutely tragic and unfortunate to see Pakistanis seeking revenge from Pakistanis themselves. I am living in Germany for some years now and what I have heard from my friends in Frankfurt regarding the Pakistani consulate is also pathetic.
    First of all is the extreme inhospitable and rude attitude that the staff exhibits. Secondly I have heard that the consulate staff is charging the fee for an urgent passport and issuing it on normal basis. I dont know whom to complain and where to get accountability from. I think the best thing would be that all you guys back in Dubai write a petition to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Dubai. The only way they could straighten up is when Dubai government takes them hard.

    RegardsRecommend

  • imran

    All the above stories are true. The place is ugly and worst experience of your life, i decided never to renew my passport from this shitty place again. It took 8 hours in the whole process and its true that tokens are sold to PROs of companies early morning so that their bosses can come get the job done without waiting in the line. I went there in Ramadan of 2010 and had to wait outside in 40 degrees for three hours. Someone got frustrated and a fight started with the consulate officials, all type abuses were hurled at each other in front of women. One of the consulate officials threatened to tear everyone’s passport if anyone argued with him. In the end no one protested and the consulate officials went on with their dirty work. The Indian consulate is nearby and with more than 2 millions living in UAE, i never see a line as big as ours. Eventually the problem is not with the process, the problem is the govt and its stooges who are sent political appointment to serve overseas Pakistanis.Recommend

  • 3rdRockFromTheSun

    For a moment I thought you were describing the Indian consulate here in Toronto. My last interaction with them was a few years back, and the general state of affairs was quite similar to what you have written. However, things seemed to have improved in the last year or two since a lot of the processing has now been handed over to a private firm. Finally the govt seems to be listening to the public!Recommend

  • mr. righty rightist

    @Caffeine Dose

    You should have simply renounced pakistani citizenship and requested Indian consulate to take you as a refugee. I think that would have been faster.

    And considering the energy with which you have written your comment, a little less caffeine will do u gud.Recommend

  • Umber

    This is Pakistan territory and Pakistani rules apply my friends. My husband paid 500 dirhams to avoid the line.Recommend

  • A. Khan

    @Parvez:

    The writer is complaining about getting a new passport issued, not a new visa. Please read the article again.Recommend

  • A. Khan

    While we are at it, why must the consulate staff always staple everything together ? My NIC card is beginning to look like something has eaten it through, there are so many holes in it. If the aim is not lose any associated documents, why cannot the process be changed to allow for resealable envelopes to be used ?Recommend

  • The Khan

    jeddah one is horrible too. Indian consulates are no betterRecommend

  • Rahim ALi

    Sydney Consulate is worest as well … they only open for 3 hours in a whole day and If you one min late … they wont take your application … i dont know why consulate staff think they are better than normal pakistanis live abroad :(Recommend

  • salmanzq

    I could write stories after stories about the consulate in Dubai. Over the years in short: I’ve managed to be handed 2 NICOP cards which got me in trouble in Pakistan immigration (saved only by calling the right people), gotten work done because a friend’s last name is Gillani (which meant we were taken ahead of the line, sat in an air conditioned room and our work done in a few minutes even though we had not asked for it), had a Pakistan tourist visa issued in 2 minutes for a Bangladeshi friend right after the staff had told me that they don’t issue visa to Bangladeshis at all (I called daddy to sort it out), had to spend 2 days going back and forth when my passport was lost and many more. My initial idealism gave way to pulling strings because I don’t have time to waste and have the resources. I feel much sorrier for those who don’t have the right contacts. And they wonder why want a passport from a different country…Recommend

  • Waseem

    behaviour of pakistani working in embassies,Governemt offices need imporementRecommend

  • Waseem

    @Rahim ALi:

    may be they have superiority complexRecommend

  • ishtiaq

    Pakistan Consulate Dubai reflect the Pakistan of today albeit within a small building. So no surprises with rude behaviour, broken furniture, stiffling environment and endless suffering of hapless people. Why were they borne Pakistanis – it is their fault.Recommend

  • Parvez

    @A. Khan: …..and Sir, its all done under one roof………as such my comment stands. Recommend

  • roadkashehzada

    @Baba Ji:
    yes had a good experience in abu dhabi for my new born son’s passport. we reached at 12 and baby was given full protocol :D
    they improved alot compared to last yearRecommend

  • Waseem

    Because majority of them belong to poor or middle class, when they got position they begin to behave abnormalyRecommend

  • Farhan

    They’re all the same everywhere around the world! Absolutely incompetent. Zero work ethic!

    They get paid in the foreign currency, a place to live, expenses paid and the families back home are given a substantial amount too. Also, whether it’s a statutory holiday in the foreign country or Eid holidays etc. back home, they get them all – BEST JOB EVER?? you would think they would appreciate and give everyone the best possible service. But no.
    When I visited the embassy, I kept telling myself, this bunch of incompetent individuals does not represent the Pakistani majority, it does not, it does not! Recommend

  • Eric Kumar

    @De: The problem with staff at consulate is they have inferiorty complex. Consulate staff are being low paid employees. They still have mentality of Baboos, tea drinking, gossping,smoking and running to bathrooms and who cares attitude. Tradgey of whole thing is their bosses also fall into same catagory. If one has connection then these babus will even touch your Bu….. to please you. This is the truth.Consulte people are not human being and act like zombees and don’t understand that some body’s mother ,father,daughter and son etc. is sick and they need to go home soon to help family members. I pray to Allah that He intervene and infuse the feeling of humanity and careing in these Baboos. Recommend

  • Adolf

    @ Zaraf
    Spot-on. That’s s wise suggestion. Unfortunately, they’re are similar to tea-bags, they only work well when put in hot-water.
    Agreed.Recommend

  • Shehryar

    The only way to improve the working of the Consulate in Dubai is to outsource the work to a private 3rd party. The people currently deputed at the consulate do not have the intellectual capacity to come up with solutions to improve the situation – but this should be expected considering that most of these people working at the consulate come from extremely poor educational and social backgrounds which shows through in their attitude.
    The only way to improve the working of our consulates/embassies abroad would be to hire local labour which would also reduce the burden on the tax payers money. In addition the processing should be outsourced to private companies. Recommend

  • MUKHAT

    Most of the Consulate employees are relatives or friends of the political families, either they are current government or previous governments. They are appointed without any qualifications or merit, that’s the main reason they treat people like that. Only one way to get rid of these sick people is TO VOTE IMRAN KHAN. Recommend