I visited Passport office yesterday at Awami Markaz, Karachi and had one of the worst experiences of my life . I had to make and renew my and my family members’ passports so we reached the office at 8:30 am at the advice of well wishers. To my surprise i discovered that the relevant bank branch where we had to submit the passport challan wouldn’t open before 10 am so we had to wait and till then face intimidating approaches of various agents roaming around freely at the premises, offering their services for swift processing to all and sundry. One just wonders when we will be able to get rid of this candid culture of commission rather corruption even for legal and routine tasks such as passport and NIC issuance or transfer of property etc., without hassle.
We, like many others, who refused to hire agents for shortcut and opted to go through proper channel, had to suffer the tedious process of collecting and submitting challan fee in long queues, moving up and down with children and aged family members to complete the multiple rounds of processing. Our actual trial began in passport office. It was a congested over-crowded place with rude staff and indifferent officials who turned deaf ear to the plight of public. Both men and women, ranging from all age-groups, class and localities tried maintain their sanity while juggling around small cabins and counters to be photographed, interrogated for data entry and gone through bio-metrics before finally registered and issued receipts for passport collection a month later in routine course.
What is most disturbing was the cruel attitude of the office staff and consistent mishandling. The person on the data-entry counter seemed to be looking for an excuse to raise an objection and refute people’s applications on one pretext or the other after 5 and 6 hours wait. It could be anything from your expired father’s name, NOC from office, Old manual ID card, husband’s name, nikahnama or any other major or minor details that provided him this excuse.
There was no system or sequence since people were called out randomly irrespective of their serial or token numbers. One can obviously notice the racket that allowed swift entry and clearance of applicants entered through commission agents or on personal contacts and links. On applicants’ protest for random processing and slow functioning, one officer who had scolded numerous people irrespective of their age, gender and status, ironically commented “we have a new software that processes senior citizens earlier than others? Do you mind! ” He even threatened some candidates to stay quiet otherwise he would not entertain them.
What is extremely painful was the cage like congested office with crowded counters and limited seating capacity in the humid summer day where men and women of all age and groups were flocked like animals and children especially little ones were crying non-stop due to congestion, humid and crowd. People suffered silently and with mild complaints due to the fear that any open protest or criticism might trigger the furious staff and deprive them to get their passport in time. I noticed it’s the same fear that turns most of us into s silent (deaf & dumb) majority and keeps us suffering with a wish that a mesiha would come one day to change this corrupt system while the rest of us yearn for a blue passport and green card to fly abroad and live a peaceful and fair life away from corrupt Pakistan.
I just hope that we realise our strength as public, voters, citizens, consumers, clients, students, parents, buyers, employees and teachers… we must realise that we can’t get respect in a golden platter with this indifferent attitude… we need to earn it through collective approach, honest intention, fair action and one voice… a voice for fair, just and honest Pakistan BUT the question is that who is ready to take first step, raise first voice and register first protest even if it costs us a reaction… Isn’t it worthy to live one day bravely than suffer throughout? Besides when there is collective demand for social justice, fair play and basic rights then will the corrupt, dishonest and opportunists have courage to suppress it… I doubt! azmaish shart hai, kiya khayal hai …!!!