Karachi, April 10 (Dawn) – Pakistan will launch an e-passport system by June and services of a German company have been acquired for this purpose, said the interior minister on Friday.
Talking to reporters after visiting the FIA’s zonal office, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said it was a major development which would help remove all the hurdles faced by passport seekers in the current system.
“I assure you that this [e-passport] service would be available by June ,” he said in reply to a question. “After that you would not hear any complaints or year long delays for minor work. A German company has been hired for this project and it would be a major relief for all those seeking speedy service by the passport office.”
An e-passport is a highly secure travel document with an embedded microchip containing biometric information about the holder.
Mr Ahmed distanced himself from any role of his ministry and FIA in the ongoing probe into the sugar scandal, saying the matter was being handled by Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Mirza Shahzad Akbar.
“Let’s be very clear,” he said when asked about the growing tussle between the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and its estranged leader Jahangir Khan Tareen who is allegedly involved in the sugar scandal. “I have nothing to do with the sugar scandal. Same is my stance for FIA. This sugar scandal and money laundering are subjects of Shahzad Akbar. He would be in a better position to answer that. But the case of Jahangir Tareen is very sensitive in my opinion.”
He claimed to have launched a reforms campaign in the FIA and held out the assurance that results would start emerging after one month.
“Just give me a month. I assure you that you would see things changing in FIA after Ramazan. This is my promise,” he said while referring to “pressure” on him from different quarters as a large number of government officers wanted their postings in the agency.
He said that under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan a policy had been designed to promote tourism in the country and that the online visa service was being offered to the citizens of 192 countries.
“Under the same policy we have issued some 300,000 visas [during the last few months],” said the minister. “Only 12,000 applications were rejected. Every agency involved in clearance of applicants has been asked to give their report within a month. So within a month, the applicant is getting Pakistani visa.”
He avoided taking questions about politics, but cautiously commented on a few. However, he didn’t take a second to deny any impression of any threat to PM Khan and his government.
“This is absolute gossip and let me tell you that there’s no threat to Imran Khan,” said Mr Ahmed. “He’s going to complete his [five-year] term and would emerge as a very strong candidate for the next one. There’s peace everywhere for Imran Khan.”
He called the former president and co-chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Asif Ali Zardari a “smart politician who keeps his cards close to his chest”.
“I appreciate the positive thinking of the PPP and who doesn’t know Asif Zardari,” he said. “He’s a smart player who always keeps his cards close his chest. The PML-N is proving itself self-destructive.
They have taken the anti-military line for point scoring, but they don’t know that people are well aware of their past. They are the products of the GHQ and without the blessing of [military dictator] General Ziaul Haq, none of them could have become a counselor.”