The curse of the green passport

Published: May 20, 2014
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It is mandatory from June 1, 2014 for people of all ages to receive polio drops and produce a certificate before travelling out of the country. PHOTO: FILE

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recently recommended travel restrictions on Pakistanis travelling abroad to prevent the spread of the polio virus, as Pakistan continues to be one of the few remaining countries where polio is still considered a threat.

This aforementioned restrictions seem to be a last ditch effort by the public health agency to curb the spread of the virus from a country that has been unable to run a sustained inoculation campaign due to a variety of reasons which are better left unsaid. However, what I am concerned about more is the effect that these travel restrictions will have on Pakistani travellers who are already beleaguered by the ‘curse of the green passport’.

Now, this might seem too harsh a statement and although it makes me sad while I note this, but the Pakistani passport remains amongst the worst in the world to travel with. Even though, many restrictions already apply to anyone travelling from Pakistan but I believe that these latest constraints will mostly add to the hassles of travellers holding green Pakistani passports.

Frequent flyers, who hold Pakistani passports, will tell you of all sorts of experiences they have faced at various airports across the globe. From being selected for random checks to being interrogated for hours before being allowed access into the country of our destination, we Pakistanis have been through it all!

As a result, Pakistani travellers have to be prepared for everything when boarding a plane and, unfortunately, have to make sure they have all possible documents in hand as they may even be asked to present their qualification degrees when travelling for a business visit! The polio vaccination certificates will now be another addition to this never-ending checklist of documents required for Pakistani travellers; this effectively means that, we, Pakistanis will now have to stand in yet another line to have our vaccination certificates checked at airports across the world.

On the other hand, the steps that the Pakistani government would now have to take, in order to ensure that all travellers are compliant with the requirements of WHO, will put even more strain on an economy that has been struggling for years with inflation continuing to rise steadily. The mitigating steps required by the government will include setting up kiosks at airports to provide polio vaccination to travellers and guaranteeing that they have valid vaccination certificates before departure. All these measures will invariably require a lot of money and allocations from a budget that continues to be dominated by military spending due to the security situation in the country.

Polio is truly a debilitating disease and all measures should be taken to eradicate it from the face of the Earth. While I do respect WHO’s stance, placing restrictions on the entire nation will only further Pakistan’s isolation from the rest of the world, the government must take action to ensure that all the necessary steps are being taken to have the travel limitations lifted as swiftly as possible.

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.

  • Maria

    You may not know that all Muslim passports – not just the Green Pakistani passport – are subject to more scrutiny but with reason. I have seen in the US that Iranians and Arabs are particularly singled out for more inspection than Pakistanis. Whether your passport is from Syria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan or any other Muslim nation, it will be viewed more carefully. Unfortunately the scourge of extremist terrorism comes from Muslim countries. Even with an American passport and despite being born there, we are subject to more “random” checks and scrutiny for the same reason. Ask your Muslim friends abroad whether a North American, European or Australian passport means Muslim citizens are less scrutinized or not. The customs people have a job to do and they do it with professionalism. I get checked more often despite my “Blue passport”. I don’t think the polio certificate is a big deal if you understand it will encourage people to be more mindful of their vaccinations. I actually carry my immunization record when I travel anyways as a habit. Unfortunately the civil war in Afghanistan and the influx of militants destabilized Pakistan’s border regions so polio could not be properly addressed. This is not Pakistan’s fault but the way the nation reacts and deals with this matter is a different story. We should act maturely and not make a mountain of a mole hill. Paying for an extra polio shot or polio drops at an airport kiosk is no big deal for travelers and should not be paid by the state.Recommend

  • deep

    How inconvenient this must be for you. I am sure that kid stricken with polio in FATA empathizes with you and your sense of urgency.Recommend

  • abubakar

    We deserve such treatments at airports and other places, period. Recommend

  • Thetruth

    Only Indian passport can get you free access to any country in the world without visa, and permanent residency. Indian passport holders will now get special vip access lane in all airports. All of this is thanks to the bjp and narendra modi. If any country doesnt comply Modi will crush them.Recommend

  • tungi

    i suggest stopping all campaigns in fata and let their kids polio. only then they will realize fertility ws mre imp or thisRecommend

  • Wah wala

    We can thank our “Good Brothers” the TTP etc. Long list. Starting with Ayub
    Zia Bhutto..who destroyed the country.Recommend

  • Adpran

    The purpose of vaccination is to protect someone from disease that may be transmitted from other people. But only in Pakistan, someone must get vaccination with purpose to protect other people from him.Recommend

  • Mike

    Indian passport can go anywhere wid full residency, Now that Modi is in charge, India will be given everythings. If country dont comply, Modiji will crush demRecommend

  • Sonya

    As if the curse was not already biting – it has increasingly been becoming difficult for us Pakistanis to defend Pakistan’s case abroad – i wish if you could suggest a cure for this curse too in your blog as to how one can live with green passport?Recommend

  • RFT

    well said!Recommend

  • Sane

    In dreams only.Recommend

  • Flybouy

    Utter rubbish! Keep your childish comments to yourself. I am saying that as an Indian.Recommend

  • Adpran

    If you have passport and you have ever go to another country, you must be know that your statement is not true.

    Indian passport holder get visa on arrival facility in many countries, but not all. And if you overstay in a foreign country, immigration will arrest you before send you back to India. If you hold diplomatic passport, indeed, you will get VIP access lane, but if you are just usual tourist with usual passport, you still have to queue in immigration service.Recommend

  • Mohammad

    Have self confidence and travel with pride – your Green Passport will become RED/YELLOW/Blue or whatever passport you want.Recommend

  • abhi098

    How great it would have been if every muslim in india had migrated to pakistan in 1947. They could have enjoyed a great life in pakistan. Green passport is indeed the greatest.Recommend

  • Parvez

    When you are known to kill in the name of religion…….shower rose petals on a murderer and name a house of God after him……DO YOU REALLY EXPECT TO BE RESPECTED…..irrespective of the passport you carry.Recommend

  • Manicheetos

    i would only say that “White House vows CIA will not use vaccine programs for covert ops”. This also has contributed a lot for undermining the Polio campaign………….Recommend

  • Younus

    Author ignorance is obvious… He does not seem to know that polio vaccination is required for anyone carrying any passport traveling out of Pakistan…Recommend

  • nedian

    Despite agreeing to all the disadvantages associated with our passport, I would very humbly like to ask the writer to think for a moment of those who do not have a passport at all & be thankful. Whatever we have is ‘Ours’ and we should take pride in it, come what may! If we ourselves will ‘curse’ it, what good we can expect from others?Recommend

  • the reluctant hypocrite

    cha gaye ustad!Recommend

  • Faraz H

    I totally agree with all your points but the article was in context of travel restrictions for people travelling out of Pakistan and hence the focus on Pakistanis.Recommend

  • Faraz H

    Perhaps you missed the line where I wrote:

    “Even though, many restrictions already apply to anyone travelling from Pakistan but I believe that these latest constraints will mostly add to the hassles of travellers holding green Pakistani passports.”

    Also, that line has been edited a bit from the original post but still means to say that although the restriction applies to everyone but it will only end up affecting Pakistani passport holders.Recommend

  • Faraz H

    I think the concluding paragraph which says that the government should take ‘all possible steps’ to ensure that the restrictions are lifted as swiftly as possible invariably means that the government needs to take quick action and run proper inoculation campaigns so as to meet the requirements of WHO and help eradicate the disease. I don’t think the write-up downgrades, in any way, the suffering of those infected by polio but rather focuses on the effects of the travel restrictions on Pakistanis.Recommend

  • Faraz H

    I think you missed the part where it says:

    Even though, many restrictions already apply to anyone travelling from Pakistan but I believe that these latest constraints will mostly add to the hassles of travellers holding green Pakistani passports.Recommend

  • Reader

    To be honest the experience varies from person to person. When studying in the UK I had to go through police control interviews every time I enter UK (I got the visa without an interview just after 7/7 bombing and also I never faced any problem living in the UK).
    Now in Scandanavia / Europe, travelling with my family, never have had any issues Alhamdolilah.
    As one commented, travel with pride and everything is fine. It is just the mindset. Yes our country has issues but some time or the other every country faces issues like this. The goal lies in trying to solve these issues.
    Nevertheless, a Pakistani passport is still a blessing.Recommend

  • Mike

    lol the indians got a little excited. Trolled the trolls!Recommend

  • ahmed

    We should act maturely and not make a mountain of a mole hill.

    We should act maturely and not make a mountain out of a mole hill.Recommend

  • Omer Masood Sadiq

    and how great it would be if you would migrate back to india. What is it, no news sites in india to troll?Recommend

  • Critical

    Hey guys,peace !!!

    This guy is a frustrated Pakistani who cannot digest the fact that Modi has become the PM of India and Indian passports have relatively better access than theirs and is now fishing for negative comments against IndiaRecommend

  • Naila

    Seriously, you have nothing better to do with your life? Recommend

  • Ali S

    The only place where Indians have VIP access are curry restaurantsRecommend

  • Kappa

    Pakistanis should be injected with “anti fundamentalism” vaccine than many many problems will be solved.Recommend

  • Alam

    lol… u r funny!Recommend

  • Alam

    Pakistanis are one of the most travelled people and I disagree with Green passport is cursed.

    It is the way you dress, talk and carry yourself etc. If you are a scruffy German, they will most likely stop and search you. Most of the times they look at your passport is immigration counters. After that, it is mostly how you appear to the police/customs etc that they stop you. Indians are discriminated a lot because of their simple appearance and traditional bindis and Tilaks.

    Yes, travelling with Green passport is not as easy as it was before 9/11, but these kinds of rants have brought us where we are. Bit of optimism can take us back to good days (even then ‘we’ used to moan a lot). I am a Pakistani who has travelled 40 countries (100 cities).Recommend

  • NotSoCommon

    Tathastu! :)Recommend

  • Gratgy

    Lol! Pakistanis trolling each other and thinking the other is Indian… Priceless!!!!Recommend

  • Adnan

    lucky you. The experience of my friends have ben mixed. Countries like Turkey have a big security apparatus. Expect to be followed and if you talk to locals they may be police informants.Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    But, when Indians, like me, say the exact same thing as you have done its not politically correct.Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    Stop blaming US. Polio was a problem even before Osama was killed. At that time India was Polio free.

    Not surprisingly, the only other 2 Nations which have Polio have a terrible islamist insurgency where the insurgents have taken over a large of the the Territory – Afghanistan, Nigeria. Both have significant Muslim population.

    Who can connect the dots?Recommend

  • Naila

    So true. A girl would call herself fat, but will be offended if anyone else calls her the same thing. Also, his comment will be taken as “constructive criticism” and your’s as full on hate.Recommend

  • Saad Kiani

    no need to thank them. in fact we should thank you for playing your part in making pakistan a better place on internet. “Thank you Sir!”Recommend

  • Maria

    I didn’t know that writing was so closely monitored here but if you must know, both forms are acceptable in spoken and written English. For example,” I’ll make a man of you yet” or ” I’ll make a man out of you yet”. Similarly you’ll find that “make a mountain of a mole hill” and ” make a mountain out of a mole hill” can be used equally. I prefer the form I’ve used for stylistic reasons and force of habit. The only point I was trying to make is that the headline for this story is misleading because all Muslim passports are subject to more scrutiny. If anything the Pakistani passport probably has less baggage associated with it than Arab or Iranian passports. Enjoy the word play !Recommend

  • Ravi

    whats the fun in trolling our own sites? :)Recommend

  • Omer Masood Sadiq

    You never know until you try…Recommend

  • kamran

    All Pakistani without any discrimination i.e. sects, religion etc have to face scrutiny at Airports as they have green passport. I experienced this while traveling to Singapore as i belong to minority. So saying this, that only Muslim of pakistan have to face the scrutiny at Airport is not true.Recommend

  • Maria

    I am trying to explain that holders of passports from all Muslim countries are subject to more scrutiny. That is to say a passport holder from any Muslim nation regardless of sect, religion or ethnicity is subject to more scrutiny. Hence an Iraqi or Lebanese passport holder – be he Christian or otherwise, would be subject to closer scrutiny too. Equally a Pakistani of any sect or religion will be checked more carefully. Moreover, those who have a Muslim name and who are born in North America carrying a Western passport are also checked more regularly – like me!Recommend

  • memphis

    Guys I will be travelling to uae on 30th may 2014 and since this vaccine certificate is mandatory from 1st June 2014 I didn’t bother getting into the hassle of securing one, I hope I don’t face any problem at the karachi or dubai airport, can anyone confirm if it’s an issue?Recommend

  • http://nazarbaaz.blogspot.com Nazarbaaz

    What a pity… what will you do with your degrees and certificates boy? Tear those up and start reeducating yourself from anywhere else. Pakistani Passport is your relations and your connection to roots. If you are so desperate, do not call yourself a Pakistani. Check!Recommend