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This article was originally submitted by Zaka Ud Din Ahmad
The world’s third-worst traveling passport is of Pakistan. Are you surprised, don’t be? Have you ever thought about why we are at the bottom of the list? Do we really deserve to stand next to war-torn countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria etc? Why can’t we raise a voice against such injustice?
Harsh truth is, today, economically and politically we are too weak to have a voice let alone fighting for our right.
So its comparatively easy that dust off this under the rug and try to live with this humiliation. As a tourist, I am always worried before applying visas to any country due to how, we with green passports are looked upon basically because of the poor image of our country; especially to traveling.
I have been removed twice at the immigration counter queue in South Korea and Georgia and was asked questions about my intention to visit, my venues and the cash I carry. It seems like, even if you get the visa the struggle is not finished. You got to face the steely expressions of airport staff and unfeeling questions are next.
The ice-cold suspicious looks with eyes full of doubts. You cannot help but notice how they look for a single opportunity to send you back. To be honest it is as it’s not just unkind but its rather cruel and no matter what, we don’t deserve to be treated like this.
Pakistani Nationals to applying for a visit visa anywhere in the world is a nightmare.
It gets even worse for European countries. We are not just looked down upon by the locals but also by their Governments. In a way, they are not wrong because there are several reasons for them being so picky; one of which is Illegal Migration.
Every time I see news about illegal immigrants arrested or killed near the border of Iran, turkey or near any entry point of Europe, Pakistani citizens almost always make to the list. The reason for this illegal immigration is that they want to provide a better life to their families and fulfill their financial needs and dreams even though they don’t have the sources for that.
All the developed countries and most developing countries have made a strict criterion of issuing visas to Pakistani citizens; due to the increase in potential asylum seekers and illegal immigration. I have been living in the United Arab Emirates for more than 8 years, and I feel privileged than other Pakistanis while applying for visas from the UAE but the threat is always there.
Until now, I have taken visas for more than 11 countries such as South Korea, Turkey, Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Oman, Germany and Saudi Arabia. However, it is still not easy to get visas for other countries, even though I am in UAE.
Almost every embassy has special and lengthiest visa processing time for Pakistani passport holders.
While all other nationals will get visas in a maximum of 3 working days, we have to wait for it for at least a minimum of 15 days and sometimes 30-60 days. As a traveler, I have visited around 19 countries and when I meet people I proudly disclose my nationality but believe me; they have extremely mixed reactions to this
Most of them are shocked or surprised and literally short of words to continue the conversation but some greet and meet me happily and have many questions to ask. The easiest way to read their uneasiness is from their eyes right after I tell them my origin.
As per the ranking of Henley & Partners Passport Index, Pakistan is at 106th rank in 2019 and visa-free access is to 30 destinations. In that list, countries from Asia, are Cambodia, Maldives, Nepal, Timor-Leste and the rest of the countries are poor African and Caribbean countries.
If you compare this with your neighboring countries visa-free destinations for India and china are 58 and 70 countries respectively.
The list of the most visited countries according to a number of international tourist arrivals; complied by the World Tourism Organization (UN WTO) are Thailand, Germany, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Italy, China, USA, Spain and France.
France tops the list with 86.9 Million visitors due to its famous Eiffel Tower in Paris and Thailand; with 35.4 Million majorly due to its beaches, temples and rich culture. In Pakistan, most people are always interested to visit the UK, the United States of America and European countries; for studies, business, tourism or meeting their families.
If you have not traveled before in your life then it’s not easy to get the first tourist visa for these countries without previous travel history. They carefully scrutinize your application; on the basis of your bank statement, travel history, financial credibility, authentication of your application evidence and most importantly; enough evidence of your ties in your country.
Most applications are rejected on the grounds of wrong information or unavailability of financial evidence for their trip.
Many dreams shatter every day due to visa refusal for multiple reasons but majorly due to not enough evidence of their return. Furthermore, I have witnessed students, businessmen and visitors that were refused visa with a doubt that they might not return.
Pakistan is a home of 200 Million people and our forefathers have sacrificed so much to get independence; to mark our presence in the world with dignity and stateliness, not to add shame for this land. I do not know today, either to facilitate a workshop with people seeking immigration abroad and council them; or curse our Government for not providing us with better opportunities in our country.
A lot needs to get done in all aspects of this matter, but special measures ought to be taken by the Government; to provide a platform for tourists; to have registered groups and make legal agreements with other countries to help the citizens. It will not only generate more revenue but cultural exchange for both countries.
We need a better ranking than the current rank, and we need to make efforts need to make the image of Pakistan and its people better in the eyes of the world.
Moreover, we need to stop doing things that tarnish our name as a nation.
As I have mentioned that I am living in the UAE for past 8 years; I am a witness to the fast development of this country, plus over the period of 8 years; the UAE’s achieved passport ranking has changed drastically. Today UAE’s passport is one of the best passports in the world; with visa-free/visa on arrival for almost 170 countries in the world.
It is unbelievable for such a small country to achieve so much success in this very short span of time. But this is possible only when we have loyal leadership. Someone who is actually interested in making Pakistan a better state, who wants to see their nation progress; who actually wants to see their country’s name on top of the list in every walk of life.
I really hope and wish that Pakistani leadership will learn a lesson from countries like the UAE, Malaysia, Singapore, and; they will start working on this most important yet neglected issued.
Our passport was one of the best passports till the mid-80s; so I will conclude with a question for my fellow citizens and the current leaders of the country;
“What really went wrong in the last 35 years, which caused this colossal nose dive?”