Saturday, 24 January 2015

Pakistani Passport: A boon or a bane?

Going through a recently published article in a local media titled “Pakistani passport third worst for visa-free travel” I am secretly thankful for my life as an expat in Malaysia. It is true that my homeland, Pakistan, blessed me with an identity but is this really the identity that one seeks in today’s globalised world? Constantly being labelled as a citizen of a war torn country, I am quizzed about my ‘real intentions’ time and again. It is hard for people to believe that I am not as poor as the remaining half of my countrymen, not as corrupt as the vast majority of my country’s politicians, nor as irrational as the conservative factions of Pakistan’s society. Their skepticism and cynical remarks although infuriate me to my bones, yet I have no alternative but to remain calm and quietly gulp down the venom that oozes out with every question.
I still remember the painfully long interrogation session that I sat through patiently, when I first landed in Malaysia to pursue my higher studies. Even with complete travel documents and university’s offer letter, the mere green color of my passport cover was enough to put the immigration officers on high alert. Nothing that I said or showed mattered anymore and I was taken to their back office for probing questions. Vivid are my memories of theofficers’ facial expressions, their peering gaze, blank stares of those detained with me, my escalating fear with passing time and lastly the relief that sank in when I was finally told that they had been successful in making contact with my university and their agent had been dispatched to receive me.
As I held on to my passport, waiting for the agent to clear me through the immigration process, I couldn’t help noticing the discrimination between the treatment of Pakistani citizens and foreign passport holders.
This became clearer with time when even countries like Sri Lanka halted the issuance of on arrival visas for Pakistanis.
Currently, Pakistanis are allowed to visit 36 countries without visa of which most are located in the continent of Africa. Shamefully, Pakistani passport shares the place with Somali passport whereby both are ranked as the world’s 3rd worst for visa-free travel.
As a patriot and a firm believer in a better tomorrow, I still pray and hope that one day, Pakistan too will be able to share a place with world’s other developing countries and will be able to attain on arrival visas to 100 destinations or more.

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