By Mubarak Zeb Khan
ISLAMABAD, June 1: Travel agents in Britain are fleecing people seeking Pakistani visa and earning an average of 60,000 to 80,000 pounds a month allegedly in connivance with some officials of the Pakistan High Commission in London, official documents reveal.
Although these travel agents have been operating without approval of the Foreign Office, they enjoy tacit support of some officials in the high commission.
Official documents available with Dawn show that every travel agent charges an additional 15 to 25 pounds per routine application and more in ‘special cases’ as ‘service charges’ and the amount is paid in cash by the applicant.
“I will check with the High Commission in London and get back on this,” Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Sadiq, who appeared to be in the knowledge of the issue, told Dawn.
“The high commission has not given any code of conduct to these agents and they are free to mint money from the Pakistani community. There is no system of control over what they charge and the present system is also discriminatory against those who come to the embassy in person in extreme weather to personally process their cases,” the document of the high commission reveals.
An inquiry report does not indicate how many travel agents have been authorised to act on behalf of the high commission. However, there is one list of 21 such agents but it has not been signed by any officer and instead there are scribbles on the top left of the forms dated November 2007.
According to the report, all files show that there is no approval of either the ministry or the high commission of any travel agent or the agency. There is no evidence of any advertisement or the short-listing process. There is apparently no procedure adopted for the selection of these ‘agents’ and it was all done by someone using his discretion. There is no application procedure and no interviews are conducted.
The document also reveals that all so-called accredited agents are chosen randomly and the file does not mention their credentials.
Their eligibility to act on behalf of the high commission is not determined by their capacity to deal with the sensitive job.
Source: Daily Dawn, 2/6/2008