By Muhammad Faisal Ali
LAHORE: Repeated requests by officials to post female security officials at passport offices across the country have fallen on deaf ears.
Dawn learnt that easy access of female visitors, many of them clad in veil, to the passport offices has caused concern among the employees who have been pleading for proper checking arrangements.
At the same time field officials do not rule out the risk of armed robberies by female gangs.
Sources in the Directorate General of Immigration and Passports told Dawn that officials had time and again requested the police and the sole private security company hired for providing guards to the passport offices nationwide to provide female security staff but no serious effort had been made.
They said the passport offices figured in the list of the buildings which, according to intelligence reports, could easily be targeted by militants owing to poor security. Even at the gate of the directorate general in Islamabad only one woman had been posted. And Islamabad’s passport office did not have even one woman to perform security duty.
Hundreds of people including women and children and foreigners throng 52 passport offices of the country daily and the security staff check men through metal detectors.
Few regional passport offices where visa facility is also provided are also frequented by foreigners, sources said, adding that the authorities were avoiding comprehensive security measures.
They said the police higher-ups had refused to provide security to the passport offices due to shortage of personnel while the Orian security company responsible for providing force to the passport offices was unable to hire females for the job.
A senior official, who wished not to be named, told Dawn that the director general had recently been reminded of the need to issue funds for acquiring women security staff, CCTV cameras, barriers and raising boundary walls keeping in view the security threats. There was no response from the authorities due to financial constraints, he said.
The official said at least two male guards were being provided to the passport offices for which the directorate issued funds under security head. He said after the directorate started issuing machine readable passports seven years ago, not even a single robbery incident had taken place; prior to that at least 13 incidents were reported in which robbers took away cash, valuables and ordinary passports.