Stories about passport

Deported from Israel for being a Muslim who visited Pakistan

Destination: Israel Purpose: To visit Jerusalem and everything within it which ‘drives men mad.’ I had spent months preparing for my trip to the country with the primary aim of visiting Jerusalem and seeing the great historical landmarks such as the Al Aqsa mosque and Wailing Wall. I had purchased clothes appropriate for the sweltering heat of the Middle East, booked my flight well in advance and converted almost all of my remaining savings to Israeli Shekels in an almost hyperactive state of eagerness. It was in this mood that I reached Ben Gurion airport on the morning of the 24th of ...

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The reluctant immigrant

When it comes to matters of loyalty, immigrants are as highly favoured as that unwanted brownish layer stubbornly floating on a hot cup of tea. It seems as if patriots all over the world have established a ‘face-twitching association’ just to combat the sinister claws of immigrants. Rest assured, no in-depth research has gone into this statement. I say this mostly out of a huge sense of self-imposed guilt. Living in America for a couple of years in the 90’s was a magical time. Disney land, Hollywood, The Rockies, Ice-cream sandwiches, free breakfast at school and double dutch was absolutely blissful ...

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Backpacking across Thailand – on a green passport!

While our group of five was contemplating on whether to hit the Maldives, Seychelles or Bora Bora for our hard-earned annual leaves, a cursory look at our budget and the tempting rupee-baht conversion rate made the decision all the more easy! Trip Advisor’s pricey recommendations notwithstanding, the vibrant streets of Bangkok and breezy beaches of Koh Phangan provided an alluring escapade from the noise and din of a fertiliser complex. From an array of water sports to top-of-the-line garments for shopping aficionados, all night beach parties to umpteenth resorts lined with deck-chairs and sun umbrellas, there is a magical appeal to Thailand’s pristine ...

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Islamabad scareport

For the purpose of this tale, I’ll describe the reception area at Islamabad airport as an horizontal U in a space the size of two large kitchens. Stood at the beginning of the left hand column of the U is a security guard for the first security check. Walk through this and along to the curve at the bottom of the U. That’s where (on its outer perimeter) there’s a long table. Behind it are five customs officers in front of it are four queues waiting to have their bags searched.  Walk past this and you’ll swerve up the right hand part of the U parallel to the left – ...

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

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 ...

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Visa restrictions: Who draws lines around countries?

The last few months have been full of optimism for Indians and Pakistanis who are eager to step across the border and experience what lies on the other side. The fact that both countries have been working towards a liberal visa regime  to enable people-to-people contact is a cause for celebration but there is bound to be anxiety until the time an official deal is signed. The recent news about a last-minute snag, leading to a postponement in this process after a meeting between Pakistan’s former Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, and India’s Home Secretary, R K Singh, comes across as ...

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My initiation into a morally bankrupt society

A few days back, taking advantage of my weekly holiday, I decided to renew my passport. Fearing that a late arrival at the passport office would lead to having to wait in a never ending line, I made sure I reached the premises at around 8 am. Having paid the renewal fee of Rs3,000, I joined a few others, who also wanted to take advantage of the early hours. At the same time, there were many ‘shady’ agents outside, who were keen on offering their ‘expertise’ for down-the-table payment. I brushed them off, thinking that after all; it was only a ...

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They do leave, Mr Prime Minister

Despite calls from Pakistan’s opposition to step down or be ousted, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani  is still in charge. Fresh from his triumphant reception outside the Supreme Court, Gilani took on a different kind of challenge when he sat down for an interview with CNN’s Becky Anderson last week. I have to say, the prime minister has come a long way since his television debut as the bumbling leader of a parliament of dunces. Throughout the CNN interview, he sounded confident and combative. His answers were mostly canned responses to the usual canned questions ...

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Letters from abroad: Shame on you, you are Pakistani

Suvarnabhumi Aiport, Check-in Counter 1, Row W: I’m at the check-in counter of a low-cost budget airline with an indemnity form staring at me – as if mocking me, telling me you had this coming. There are four women and three men, all discussing in detail, what I believe are my passport details, in indiscriminate Thai language. At one hand, I see wrinkles on the foreheads of my flight’s cabin crew and immigration personnel, and on the other hand, the sheer architectural beauty of the Bangkok airport refuses to wear down my excitement. The schism and ambivalence is uncanny. After nine splendid ...

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Do I have the right to remain Ahmadi?

In 1966, nearly 180 million people in the US received Miranda rights – the right to remain silent to avoid self-incrimination. Half a century later, a religious community in Pakistan, another country of nearly 180 million people, is facing a rather caustic version of the Miranda rights. They don’t have the right, but a duty, to remain silent. The religious group is the Ahmadiyya community. Two recent events frame the issue aptly. First, on January 29, 2012, clerics organized an anti-Ahmadiyya rally in Rawalpindi, attended by 5,000 madrassah students, chanting threatening anti-Ahmadiyya slogans and demanding to take over a 17-year-old Ahmadiyya ‘place of worship’. Then on February ...

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