No lamination paper, thus no passports for any Pakistani citizen

Published: April 20, 2013
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The sad part is that nobody cares, not the US government, nor the Pakistani – what is it to them if we suffer? PHOTO: FILE

“May I help you?” asked the lady behind the counter.

 “Yes, I’m here to renew my driver’s license,” said my husband candidly.  

 “May I see your passport and proof of your legal residence in the United States?”

“Yes, here they are.”

The lady glanced at my husband’s passport which had expired in March but still had a valid visa on it. My husband had applied for the renewal of his passport way back in January and by mid-April, we still had no news about it, except that our government had run out of lamination paper – seriously, it’s true.

His passport was stamped ‘new passport issued’.

 “I’m sorry we can’t issue you a driver’s license when you are carrying an expired passport,” said the lady dismissively.

“But it’s in process, actually our government in Pakistan has run out of lamination paper.” My husband’s reasoning sounded stupid and he knew it.

The lady frowned at him.

“Please help me, I won’t be able to drive to work or use my credit cards without it. It’s my only source of identification here in the United States,” he pleaded with her.

“I’m sorry I can’t help you; why don’t you wait for your new passport and then come back later?”

We were at a loss for words.

My husband was in a state of rage; he was despaired and confused. How was he to commute to and from work every day without his license? How would we make our daily transactions without the use of our credit and debit cards?

Here in the US, your driver’s license is the only source of identity country wide, required while doing anything legal from driving a car, to buying cigarettes, shopping at a store or flying to a different state. You are required to carry it on you at all times. That’s the only thing we keep in our wallets, but the green passport had come back to haunt us.

The sad part is that nobody cares, not the US government, nor the Pakistani – what is it to them if we suffer?

I have absolutely no hope that this matter will be resolved shortly by the Pakistani government; when has our pain every made a difference to them?

I thought of the many Pakistanis who were in the same predicament and wondered about the hardships they were facing. I felt cursed carrying the green passport in my hand.

According to a report published in The Express Tribune, this case is currently being dealt with by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Advocating the need for the rule of law, the Transparency International Pakistan (TIP) has urged the Chief Justice of Pakistan to take suo motu notice on the detrimental delays  suffered by ordinary citizens striving for their passports.

TIP, in its plea to the Supreme Court said that according to the procedure, on payment of the fee, the passport should, ordinarily, be delivered to the recipient within 12 to 15 working days and for urgent requests with higher fee, the passports should be returned within five to seven working days. 

The passport office, till about five years ago, was the least corrupt institute in Pakistan as surveyed by the National Corruption Perception Survey by TIP; it is now one of the most corrupt offices.

Load shedding, breakdown of passport making machines and passport paper shortage have been some of the reasons given to those dealing with this current fiasco, but we all know that the real dirt lies in politics. Until the matter is in court, new passports will not be issued for an indefinite period till the matter is resolved, and the matter can only be resolved when the contract to manage the affairs is given to the political party of choice.

My questions to the higher authorities in Pakistan are; when will the few corrupt hands stop making the lives of every Pakistani miserable around the globe? Why can’t our bureaucracy understand how important passports are in foreign countries? How can they play with our lives and our future? Isn’t it beyond reason to put the responsibility of such an important department in the hands of people who are so miserably inefficient? When will our country start caring about the interests of their people as opposed to the interests of a select few?

The whole country ran out of lamination paper? When will we, Pakistanis, stop becoming a laughingstock worldwide?

amber.saeed

Amber Saeed

A doctor who has completed her post graduate from Aga Khan University. Currently, she resides in the US and is a stay home mom.

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