The introduction of biometric passports in Pakistan will be made in an attempt to reduce forgery and combat human trafficking.
Pakistan’s interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan chaired a high-level meeting at the ministry on Friday, during which he acknowledged that forgery of passports was a huge problem. He later approved the introduction of biometric passports, announcing that they would be available by 2017.
Biometric passports to combat human trafficking
Nisar said that not only was abuse of travel documents linked to serious crimes such as human trafficking, it had also damaged Pakistan’s reputation abroad. He announced that efforts were needed to combat increasingly sophisticated forgery methods, and the introduction of biometric passports would be an important step.
Biometric passports cannot be forged or copied, offering far greater security than their traditional counterparts. “We will ensure the elimination of human trafficking from the Pakistani soil with the introduction of e-passports,” Nisar said.
The interior minister received a detailed briefing on biometric passports from the Immigration and Passports director-general. The official revealed that the new documents would contain a microchip with each individual’s biometric information embedded in it. It will also have the capacity to add further information on the traveler at a later date, with only the immigration and passport authorities able to do so.
Nisar said that the relevant authorities should buy a digital printer capable of producing the new documents.
Pakistan needs to tighten control of documents
Passports remain a huge problem for Pakistan, with many nationals getting into hot water abroad. Saudi Arabia recently deported 43 Pakistanis who had been issued emergency passports after losing their original documents.
Irregular arrangements also led to four people being taken off planes. The travelers had no hotel bookings and insufficient funds to travel. Three people were heading to Brazil, and another was hoping to fly to Malaysia.
More than 10,000 Pakistanis have been found to possess multiple passports gained after submitting falsified documents. “Among the multiple passports holders are diplomats, businessmen, senior civil servants, lawmakers and foreigners,” an interior ministry official said.
Interestingly the majority of these second passports were not issued in Pakistan. Since 2008, embassies abroad have issued 110,000 duplicate passports to people who said that they had lost their original document or simply needed to renew their passport. “Some of them are said to have been issued on the basis of fraudulent information like change in name of parents or dates of birth,” said the official.
Over 19,213 duplicate passports have been issued in Madrid, 11,112 in Dublin, 9,110 in Kuala Lumpur, 3,200 in Athens, 3,123 in The Hague, 2,516 in Paris, 2,100 in New York, 1,677 in Bangkok, 1,465 in Frankfurt, 1,234 in Bradford, 967 in Glasgow, 730 in Washington and 170 in Chicago.
Interior ministry continues work to improve security
It is high time that Pakistan cracked down on fraudulent passports. The proliferation of illegal documents not only compromises security, but damages the reputation of Pakistan as a nation.
In other news the interior minister has announced the next stage of an initiative to draw up a registry of firearms. He said that the deadline for renewing manual weapon licenses would be extended by six months.
This will be the final extension of a scheme that is designed to get all genuine gun owners to validate their licenses with the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra). After the June 1 deadline passes, all licenses that have not been renewed will be cancelled.
By December 2015 more than 180,000 gun permits had been digitalized and validated by the interior ministry. Officials detected more than 8,000 fake licenses during the process.