INSIGHT AND FORESIGHT

November 7, 2008

‘Give us the Pakistani Passport, at Least’

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 1:04 pm

By: Amjad Malik

 

The respect Pakistani rulers have created for the Green passport abroad is visible from the treatment they get at the USA airport when they had to take off their shoes and belts. However this same travel document is a passport to heaven to some 8 million Pakistanis who have families back home and their desire to keep in touch with their families and the country of origin is an unannounced ‘unstinted support’ towards Pakistan. However Pakistani bureaucracy and successive regimes have always preferred to give the basic rights of their citizens as favors which is a near curse to any nation. I will be unfortunately highlighting about a minor hardship towards obtaining new or renewed passports at missions abroad especially in UK which is causing havoc in Pakistani lower threshold circles i.e. students, spouses visa holders, work permit holders and all others who are temporarily resident in UK, of course, those have no ‘sifarish’ or ‘goose’ to give and they are here in the system for years. Asylum seekers from UK have the privilege to be directly promoted to the posts of chief Ministers, Governors, Ministers, Ambassadors and even advisors but common Pakistanis are still queuing up for their basic rights outside these missions. Recently Government of Pakistan has introduced a policy or practice whereby no passport will be issued and or renewed on the basis of old identity card. One will have to have a new computerized identity card in order to enjoy that facility, I feel that may be justified in limited circumstances to collect data and to combat terrorism & illegal immigration, however it must be coupled with arrangements whereby such identity cards are issued within a time frame to access to facilities.

Now lately there has been a shift in the way passport is issued whereby upon expiry of any passport Pakistani citizens are demanded a ‘home office document’ or ‘sticker’ confirming that they require a passport for necessary visa endorsement. Pakistanis struggle and run around the missions to obtain passport and are in a catch 22 position. Home office asks for an original passport as they do not entertain application(s) for further, indefinite leave to remain unless supported with original unexpired passport, and Pakistani mission asks for home office letter requiring a passport. We feel when over estimated one million illegal immigrants in UK from all nationalities are stuck and wish to regularize their stay, our calls for amnesty are frustrated when citizens are denied their basic right to hold a travel document (passport) of their country of origin.

We supported, when Mz. Benazir Bhutto had to knock the door of Supreme Court under case ref: Constitution Petition 45/2007realising that some 20 million voters were missing from the lists for not having NADRA computerized cards, which in return was allowed by Supreme Court. We also supported individually in July 2005 when Mian Nawaz Sharif was struggling to obtain Pakistani passport from missions in Saudi Arabia to visit his ailing son in UK

This refusal of grant of passport without lawful reasons If Pakistani citizens’ last passport was neither cancelled, impounded and or confiscated under s.8 of the Passport Act 1974, amounts to an unlawful policy and ultra vires decision. Passport Act 1974 of Pakistan under s.3 it says,  “No Citizens of Pakistan shall

(a)  depart from Pakistan by any means whatever unless he is in possession of a passport, nor otherwise than from such port or place, by such route and in accordance with such conditions, as may be prescribed; or

(b) visit a foreign country unless his passport is valid for such country.”

Pakistani missions abroad have no legal power to refuse a legal documentation for which one is entitled because of his nationality by birth (subject to all legal requirements are met). We feel demanding home office document prior to passport application is ultra vires and at best mal practice.  If we study the renewed guidelines as advertised at Pakistan High Commission (London) Web page:

http://www.phclondon.org/passport/manualpp.asp#1 , they state as following;

·         Personal appearance of the applicant(s)

·         Fill in application form completely.

·         Provide three recent identical passport size photographs, either coloured or black and white.

·         Expired/old Pakistani passport. In case it has been sent to the British Home Office, a letter from them containing particulars of the passport.

·         Original Pakistani National Identity Card/NICOP along with its photocopy. If you don’t have National Identity Card but have applied for one, you can be issued a limited validity passport. Validity will be extended to five years with new Identity Card.

·         Urgent passport is issued on the same day. The fee* is £ 46 + 2 (Bank Charges)

·         If pages of your passport are exhausted, the procedure is same as explained before.

·         Incomplete applications will be returned without action .”

Looking at the guidelines, Pakistanis here in UK mostly meet all the criteria and are being refused unreasonably the facility on a demand which is not only unreasonable but also cause to restrict the liberty of citizens. They are asked to submit status documents in advance of the application, especially if they have entered UK lawfully on general category other than asylum. (However case studies prove otherwise). This new practice will promote nepotism, sifarish culture; unnecessary delays and hardships thus in return will tarnish the image of the country in the eyes of the hard working overseas citizens.  

From these guidelines there is no mention of a policy which is in fact, heavily in practice. The rights of a citizen to hold his country’s travel document is a fundamental one. That right is also identical which is guaranteed by the Constitution of Pakistan 1973 under Article 9 which says that ‘No person shall be deprived of life or liberty save in accordance with law.’ Furthermore, art. 14, 15, and 25 of the Constitution clarifies ‘The dignity of man and, subject to law, the privacy of home, shall be inviolable.’ Art.15 also certifies that ‘Every citizen shall have the right to remain in, and, subject to any reasonable restriction imposed by law in the public interest, enter and move freely throughout Pakistan and to reside and settle in any part thereof..’ and Art.25 which is parallel to art.14 of the ECHR guarantees that ‘(1) All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law.’

If we look at the case law, in the case of Government of Pakistan v Dada Amir Hyder Khan PLD [1987] s.c.504 the court held that where applicant for grant of passport is neither heard before refusing the issuance of passport nor any ground communicated to him for not doing so nor even told that the reason for not issuing it are of such sensitivity that their disclosure is not in the public interest, refusal to issue a passport to the applicant is without lawful authority and of no legal effect.  In the instant cases, refusal of passport(s) potentially on flawed blanket policy & practice are unlawful and has the potential to be challenged in the court of law.

This is a public interest matter and Government of Pakistan is requested to review this unannounced blanket policy immediately. Most of the machinery in Pakistan is aware of the problems faced abroad by us as they have been abroad mostly so kindly allow and ensure that if an applicant meets all the standard requirements of an application for passport, and has a valid identity document (i.e. computerized identity card), they be facilitated to have a passport facility at one, of course by way of right, not as a favor. Overseas Pakistanis contribute heavily through billions of foreign remittances in Pakistani economy unconditionally unlike our ally USA whose shopping list never ends. The least, they deserve, is a befitting treatment. That’s at least Government of Pakistan can do, to give them their passport without obstruction, if they are listening.

Amjad Malik is a Solicitor-Advocate of the Supreme Court (England) and a Vice chair of Association of Pakistani Lawyers (UK)

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