A couple of days ago, I accompanied a friend, who needed to get a new passport, to the passport office. Since the office that you must go to for such things depends on the residential address that is on your ID card, we had to go to the Pindi office (as opposed to the Islamabad one). It was too crowded and disturbing to take pictures so I’ll try to get some later, but the scene was quite frightening and I was glad I wasn’t the one who had to stand in line.
The office itself is in a three-story house in a crowded residential area of Pindi (not that there are many “uncrowded” places left there). The surrounding roads and streets are in a bad state and it is almost impossible to find free parking space. Once you find one, you have to make your way through beggars, guards (who need a good reason to let you in) and rows of “agents” who will do some of the paperwork for a fee.
Once you find the end of the queue, which is somewhere out of sight behind the building, enjoy the hot sun for a couple of hours until the person letting you into the building informs you that the passport fee must be paid at the National Bank. The nearest branch isn’t in the same building as you might expect. It is a few kilometers away which is quite a distance for Pindi considering the dilapidated state of the roads and the horrid traffic.
Though not the biggest problem, this particular bank requires you to fill in four copies of your details just to deposit the amount. What a wonderful joy. You better hope nobody invents carbon paper or decent ATMs to take it all away. Then it is time to get back in the queue at the passport office. Though I haven’t seen the inside, I’m told it isn’t exactly Buckingham Palace and the only relief compared to the outside is the lack of direct sunlight, though the humidity more than makes up for it.
The fairer sex has the advantage of not having to stand in line outside. But don’t get your hopes too high. Even getting in on a priority basis, by the time you get your photo taken, you’re hardly in a recognizable state and your passport photo is more likely to resemble your deceased great grandmother than your own.
Most of us who live and work in Islamabad are used to experiencing a relatively decent level of service and better facilities, but it is royally frustrating to see that simply having a Rawalpindi address means you have to put up with all this.
I wonder how enjoyable the experience of collecting the above mentioned passport will be. I’ll definitely get pictures this time.