–Existing staffers decry ‘indescribable’ workload
–Senior citizens appeal to govt for relief at passport office
LAHORE: Applicants are facing a great ordeal owing to the shortage of staff at the Abbott Road passport office where several seats, including those of finger-printers and data entry operators, are lying vacant for the past two months, Pakistan Today has learnt.
According to sources, there is a shortage of at least 11 staffers at the passport office. As a result, the number of counters to facilitate the passport applicants has been reduced while the workload of the existing staff has been doubled. The veracity of the problem can be gauged from the fact that Assistant Director Khurram Abbas, who is in charge of the regional office, was also seen attending applicants and forwarding forms to the Islamabad Headquarters.
“The shortage has not only increased problems for the in charge but also for other staffers. The citizens are also suffering as the number of counters has been reduced at the office and they have to wait for a longer period of time now,” sources said.
They added that the higher authorities had been informed about the state of affairs at the office several times and letters had been written to Punjab Passports Director Ikhlaq Qureshi as well as to the Islamabad Headquarters director but to no avail.
An official of the said passport office, on the condition of anonymity, told Pakistan Today that the authorities had turned a blind eye to the grievances of the staff and sufferings of the visitors. “The workload is indescribable! People abuse us for delaying the process but what can we do amid such a shortage of staff? The back-breaking work has forced several employees to seek transfers to other passport offices as well,” said the official and added that all staff members were under severe mental stress.
A resident of Garhi Shahu, Ahmed Ali, 60, told this scribe that he was forced to wait in a queue for hours.
“I passed through the first two counters easily, but when I reached the last one, I had to wait for almost three hours for my turn. I am a heart patient and cannot afford to wait in the queue for this long,” he added.
53-year-old Rehmat Bibi, who intends to go for Umrah, said she, along with her husband, reached the office at 10 am in the morning. “It is 2 pm now and I am still waiting for my turn. The officials at the counters are busy and no one is addressing my requests for timely completion of the process,” she added.
Rehmat also appealed to the government to take notice of the situation and relieve the visitors of the misery they were facing at the passport office.
Repeated attempts were made to contact Punjab Passports Director Ikhlaq Qureshi for a comment, but he was unavailable.