ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has decided to investigate whether rules were followed in issuance of over 100,000 gratis passports during the five-year term of PPP-led government.
An official said that the huge number of gratis passports issued by the previous government (104,807) had prompted the minister to order an inquiry into the matter.
The government bears the cost of passports issued to individuals - including officials of public sector entities, lawmakers, judges and personnel of armed forces - proceeding abroad on official duty.
Only last week the minister ordered cancellation of over 2,000 blue passports issued by the previous government allegedly to unauthorised people in violation of rules.
Blue passports are issued only to senior government officials and members of parliament. The official said the role of former interior minister Rehman Malik was under scrutiny in both the cases. The facility might have been misused for the sake of money.
The official did not rule out the possibility of criminals using the blue passports because its holders can gain entry into a number of countries without visa.
When asked to explain how much time would pass before fixing of responsibility in the matter, the official said: “We have just started a probe which is a time-consuming task.”
At present, an ordinary passport costs Rs3,000 and an urgent one Rs5,000. Even if half of the 104,807 passports were issued to unauthorised individuals one could well imagine financial loss to the exchequer, said the official.
An investigation into the misuse of blue passports was initiated early this year after three people were detained at Lahore airport after they failed to show a no-objection certificate from their department allowing them to proceed abroad.