This 68 years old acute diabetic patient surrounded by different old age worries could not control his abrupt and spontaneous burst of laughter. Reading a few minutes back when surfing the net he came across a PDF “Handbook for Overseas Pakistanis” on the websites both of the Honourable Federal Ombudsman and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Handbook highlights, proudly, how showing the affection for Overseas Pakistanis the Federal Ombudsman had advised the Foreign Office (in addition to Higher Education) for early attestation of documents submitted by Overseas Pakistanis for the purpose.
- About 5 years back being a cautious person I enquired from the Overseas Pakistanis Foundation (OPF), Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis, about detailed procedure for sale/transfer of plot. OPF provided me a set of about 8-10 specimen comprising Affidavits, undertakings, indemnity etc to be filled in. It instructed me, in writing, to get the same attested from the Pakistan Embassy before submitting that back to OPF. The attestation abroad is not that simple as locally in Pakistan. The biggest hill task is getting leave from the Work by the Executant and his two witnesses. On huge cost and time spent, I completed these formalities. OPF refused to accept instructing me to come to Pakistan personally. Those who can afford handsome “sweet” can get this done while sitting abroad. The Director OPF Lahore on phone as well personally in his office told me that the “documents attested by the Pakistani Missions abroad were not acceptable to OPF”. I was advised by the Director to go to a “particular” Lahore based Estate Agent. The same documents the Agent typed on “illegally” pre-attested blank judicial papers, got my signatures and charged about Rs. 6000. For me it was a day light naked looting viz (i) if the Documents attested by the Pakistani Missions were not acceptable why the OPs were then in the first instance advised officially to get those attested from Embassies and (ii) and as to how one single Estate Agent had direct access to the prescribed blank master documents in OPF server whereas the end user OPs had no access through OPF website.
- I approached the Federal Ombudsman. Our ombudsman system has always “shown” its loves for the Overseas Pakistanis in which is evident from the fact that first it established a separate cell for OPs and now a Grievance Commissioner for them. The Foreign Affairs Division submitted in its rejoinder that the “Missions only attest the signatures of the person giving the affidavit or power of attorney. It is not possible to verify the contents of the documents and no responsibility is accepted on contents”. As per the Federal Ombudsman‘s “Closure Findings” this complainant was asked for his comments on it but since he (the complainant) did not respond hence, asuming that the “complainant has nothing to say” the case was closed.
- As, thanks God, that time we had entered into the list of “enlightened nations” and there existed “Jamhuriyat Ka Hussan”, hence this hapless commoner, despite knowing the answer, could not dare question the Federal Ombudsman “are you exempt from provision of your own law?”. Holding “Holy Quran” in my hand I can solemnly affirm that I never received any communication from the Ombudsman requiring my rejoinder comments. However, the Ombudsman office prescribed rule read that in case the complainant did not give response then, in addition to 2 normal mail communications, he would finally as a third stage be sent a final reminder “but this time Under Registered” cover to give him last chance. Where is that “Registered” reminder to me?
- As a helpless common man I could not control comparing that while our present times Ombudsmen claim so often through press /media how high, yes in figures, are their achievements in handling complaints, on the other hand what the Indian Ombudsman do. The then Federal Ombudsman Mr. Justice ® Usman Ali Shah once claimed that world ombudsmen term him as “Super Ombudsman”. The Indian Ombudsman told me that in case no response is received from the complainant, he does not close the case. He takes it that the complainant might be sick or on leave, my office communication or his response thereon might have gone astray in mail hence he keeps on sending reminders to a complainant for a rejoinder till he (the Indian Ombudsman) feels that the complainant was not going to give any response at all. At this stage, unlike ours, the Indian Ombudsman does not “close” the case. He in such a situation categorized the case in two categories viz; one relating individually only to the concerned complainant and (ii) the second affecting community at large. In first category he does not “close” the case rather studied in depth the whole case and issued his Final Decision on the basis of record/facts available in the complaint file. In the second category, like that of mine above attestation complaint, the Indian Ombudsman himself becomes a complainant and starts further processing the case (suo moto) to arrive at a true Decision to remove any injustice affecting collectively to the community at large.
- Our Honourable Ombudsman “closes” the case rather than deciding the case on the basis and strength of facts available as record in the file. Thus technically and in a simple layman point of view, factually, the Ombudsman agreed or invisibly nodded the stand taken by the Foreign Affairs Division viz Embassies only attest signatures but don’t verify facts texted in the relevant document.
- I don’t know the Fee for attestation of an Affidavit or a power of Attorney at present but Three four years ago I got one Affidavit attested by a Notary Public in Karachi who then charged me Rupees 10. Last time March 2015 in Karachi I purchased pre-printed pre-attested blank Affidavit for submission to Banks @ Rs. 75/- each. The OPF documents described above which I arranged through OPF Director’s recommended Estate Agent related to the transfer of my plot. The plot cost was about Rs. 10 lacs. The Estate Agent charged me Rs. 5000/- for complete work (typing and attestation – the documents were already pre-attested blank”. Out of this Rs. 5000/-, may be a thousand or to the most two thousand shifted to the concerned attesting “Justice of Peace”. Thus under the interpretation of our Foreign Affairs Division to which technically our Federal Ombudsman subscribed, the attesting “Justice of Peace” by taking his share say just Rs. 2000 at the most, took the responsibility and “verified” the contents of the attested property documents worth Rs. 10 crore. A Notary Public outside the Kutchery or a Magistrate in a court at an average attests everyday 20-25 property documents involving properties worth Rs. 15 to 20 crore earning just a Rs. 2000 or so total attestation fees in the wisdom of our Foreign Affairs and of course in the wisdom of our ombudsman system; all accept responsibility on the contents contained in the relevant attested documents. Wonderful!
- Our highly respected Honourable Ombudsman called the protector of citizens and claiming himself (previously) Citizen’s Friend, felt no heart to question a million worth question viz if the Missions attestation was not acceptable then why do these Missions and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the first instance attest the Documents and secondly, very logically, why shouldn’t these attesting Offices be closed if their attestation was of no worth? If highly honourable Ombudsman Pakistan did not take as a suo moto being an issue of community at large, as to why OPF then directs OPs to get the documents attested from Missions. This is a daylight naked pickpocketing. The documents attested by Pakistani Mission as per OPF’s own instructions are not accepted by the OPF but only from the private Estate Agent towards whom the Director OPF showed the way to, but those, who have their hands “greased” can even while sitting abroad get their Mission attested documents with pleasure accepted in OPF; an organization about which even Senate of Pakistan has raised eyes.
- Talking today about attestation in the eyes of this acute diabetic 75% blind senior citizen with 45 plus years rich experience is nothing but a joke; a cruel joke and this senior citizen stands to it. If someone has courage, say like in MOFA, OPF or elsewhere then hang this senior citizen for speaking his mind and truth in which I will instruct my heirs to bury with me in my grave all the Documents viz embassy attested, Lahore attested, Closure Finding. My vivid memories remind me having read somewhere that in 1950s learned S.M. Zafar spoke some critical words about our beloved Pakistan or something like that. The authorities termed it as “Ghaddari” when Chief Justice Baluchistan High Court declared that only “a true patriotic Pakistani can utter those words”.