Tuesday September 21, 2021

After holder ceases to retain official position: Diplomatic passport to be surrendered within 30 days

August 03, 2021

ISLAMABAD: Hundreds of incumbent cabinet members and government functionaries are issued diplomatic passports by the federal government but they are required to surrender them within 30 days of their ceasing to hold official positions.

“They will hold the diplomatic passports as long as they hold the offices,” say the rules governing the issuance of these documents. “If they cease to hold such offices, they may be required to surrender within 30 days their diplomatic passports and those of their spouses, if they hold them, and may be given gratis ordinary passports valid for five years, one term only. The surrendered passports will be cancelled by the Additional Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, personally.”

Former presidents, ex-prime ministers, former Senate Chairmen, ex-National Assembly Speakers, their spouses and dependent children are also entitled to diplomatic passports.

When contacted, former Senate Chairman Wasim Sajjad explained to The News that previously, a visa for several countries was not required for diplomatic passport holders, but the number of visa-free destinations has drastically come down with the passage of time.

No European country exempts such holders from the visa requirement, he said, and added that there were three types of Pakistani passports – ordinary, official and diplomatic. Each one of them has its own specific features.

A senior government official, who has worked in a UN organization, said that the Scandinavian states still exempt Pakistani diplomatic passport holders from visas,but many countries don’t. He said that some holders of such documents consider it a status symbol. He said that an advantage of a diplomatic passport is that its holder gets the fast track immigration facility at a foreign airport.

The rules specifically mention the persons who are to be issued diplomatic passports. However, the prime minister can authorize the issuance of diplomatic passports in special cases.

Issuing diplomatic passports is the responsibility of the foreign affairs ministry. Machine readable diplomatic passports are processed and passports issued by the Directorate General of Immigration & Passports (Headquarters), Islamabad based on the authorization given by the foreign affairs ministry.

The class of persons entitled to diplomatic passports includes the president, the prime minister, the Senate chairman, the speaker, the Chief Justice of Pakistan, provincial governors, chief ministers, federal ministers and ministers of state (MoSs), the Attorney General of Pakistan; special assistants to the prime minister, foreign secretary, all functionaries of the federal government with the status of minister/MoSs, officers of grade 17 and above of the Pakistan Foreign Service (PFS) for the duration of their membership of the PFS; all other officers of grade 17 and above, including officers of the armed forces having equivalent ranks sent abroad on diplomatic assignments and having diplomatic status for the duration of their posting or other short-term assignments abroad,.

Diplomatic passports are also issued to Pakistan nationals holding offices in international organizations, including the President of the UN General Assembly, President of the specialized agencies of the UN such as the World Health Organization, International Labour Organization, Food & Agriculture Organization etc., executive heads of the secretariat of such autonomous and subsidiary organizations of the General Assembly as have acquired eminence like the World Trade Organization, UN Industrial Development Organization etc., directors representing Pakistan in the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the Asian Development Bank, the president & vice presidents of the World Bank and managing director & directors of the IMF; officers holding the rank of assistant secretary general and above in the UN secretariat and its specialized agencies, secretary general of the Economic Coordination Organization, secretary general of the OIC Secretariat, and executive director of the Islamic Development Bank.

Besides, the joint chiefs of staff committee chairman and chiefs of the army, navy and air force are given diplomatic passports.

The rules say that children under 15 years of the persons who have been issued diplomatic passports may be included in their passports. If they require separate passports, they will not be given diplomatic passports. They will, however, be entitled to official/gratis passports provided they are covered under Para 9 of the Passport & Visa Manual.

The spouse of a person holding the diplomatic passport is entitled to a similar document. He/she will hold a separate diplomatic passport but only so long as his/her spouse retains the prescribed office. Spouses may also be given gratis ordinary passports when his/her diplomatic passport is surrendered.

The rules further say the alien wife of a Pakistani diplomat would be accorded the same treatment as the alien wife of any other Pakistani. This means that if the nationality law does not allow her to secure a passport of the country to which she belonged, she should be allowed to obtain a diplomatic passport of restricted validity (not exceeding one year at a time) provided she gives a clear understanding that she will acquire Pakistan citizenship in Pakistan after obtaining a certificate of domicile and taking an oath of allegiance.

If, however, she is able to secure a passport of her own country she will retain that until she obtains a certificate of domicile under the Pakistan Citizenship Act, 1951 which will entitle her to a Pakistani diplomatic passport.

Diplomatic passports are granted gratis and will be valid for a period of five years. Foreign office officers, however, are given diplomatic passports valid for three years which will be surrendered by them on relinquishing their posts and will be renewable free of charge for a maximum period of another two years. Their total validity may not exceed 5 years from the date of issue. They may be renewed and added to or altered if necessary by the Pakistan passport issuing authorities abroad under intimation to the foreign affairs ministry provided the holder continues to occupy a post.

The foreign affairs ministry additional secretary may impound, cancel or confiscate a diplomatic passport of a Pakistan national by making an order under the Passport Act, 1974.