UK visa-processing procedure for Pakistan
Britain is not about to revert to its earlier, relatively hassle-free visa-processing procedure for Pakistan. This in a nutshell is the disappointing outcome of British Home Secretary Theresa May’s visit to Islamabad. Visa applications will continue to be processed in Abu Dhabi, and passports, we regret to say, may well continue to be lost.
There was a time when the British visa service in Pakistan was considered the best among that of all foreign missions; however, last year it deteriorated considerably, with hundreds of students, businessmen and tourists complaining that their passports had been lost – either in the mess at Abu Dhabi or between Pakistan and the UAE – leading many to fear that they would recover neither their passports nor the hefty visa-processing fee they had been charged. While issuing or refusing a visa is a country`s prerogative, consular officials have to be mindful of the requirements of life in a global village and cope in a coordinated and efficient manner with the ever-increasing number of students, government officials and businessmen on the move. This is in the mutual interest of the applicant and the visa-giving country. The processing of visa applications in Abu Dhabi places Pakistani visa-seekers at a disadvantage, since the staff at the `hub` is unlikely to have that understanding of the applicant`s credentials which the high commission’s Pakistan-based staff is in a position to possess.
Because of the uproar last year over what can only be called the visa scandal, the situation has considerably improved this year, especially where students are concerned. But that doesn`t address the core issue. It is true terrorism stalks the land, but no diplomatic mission seems to be as nervous or panicky as the British high commission. All western governments have kept their visa missions in Islamabad and seem satisfied with the security provided by the host government. Britain alone has acted with unwarranted haste which has earned it adverse publicity. It is time Britain reconsidered its decision and activated its visa office in Islamabad. This will do more to improve its image than the aid it gives. Dawn
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