KARACHI: Some news for Pakistanis with a travel bug — the country’s passport is the fourth-worst in the world.
The recently released Henley Passport Index, compiled by immigration consultancy company Henley & Partners, has ranked 199 world countries and the Pakistani passport has a score of 109 -- providing Pakistani citizens visa-free entries to 32 countries.
The Pakistani passport has consistently been in the bottom five during the period between 2012 and 2022. It was ranked the second-worst in 2016 when passport holders had visa-free access to 29 countries.
No South Asian country has made it to the top 50. India has a score of 80; it provides visa-free access to 60 countries. Bangladesh scored 104, five points higher than Pakistan, and has access to 41 countries. Sri Lanka and Iran are above Bangladesh with their scores of 103 and 102 respectively, with visa-free access to 42 and 43 countries.
Japan has once again maintained its top position. Japanese passport holders enjoy the most travel freedom and can travel to 193 countries without visas. Singapore and South Korea provide visa-free access to 192 countries. The first time Japan claimed the top spot was in 2018, and since then, it has been maintaining its position. Before that, European countries used to top the list. The 2022 ranking is the first time in ten years when no European country is in the list of the first three countries with high visa-free scores.
Germany and Spain are tied with a score of 190. Next in line are Finland, Italy and Luxembourg; the three countries have scored 189. The fifth place is shared by Austria, Denmark, Netherlands, and Sweden. The UK and the US are at the 6 and 7 spots respectively.
Afghanistan’s passport has scored the lowest in the current ranking. Afghan passport holders have visa-free access to only 27 countries. A spot above Afghanistan is an Iraqi passport whose holders can travel to 29 countries without a visa. Syria is a notch above with a score of 110. Syrian citizens with a Syrian passport can enter 30 countries without a visa.
The UAE has given the best performance over the years. In 2012, the country came 64 in the ranking with a score of 106. In 2022, it has climbed up to the 15th spot with a score of 176.
In 2020, even those people who have the best-ranking passports faced travel restrictions. The reopening of borders shows that Japanese passport holders who earlier had access to only 76 countries due to Covid-related restrictions can now go to 161 destinations without a visa. UK and US passport holders can now travel to 158 destinations (previously, during Covid, travellers could only go to 74 and 56 destinations respectively).
The latest travel trends, compiled by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), show that even though the top three countries, with Singapore and South Korea tied at 2, in the Index are from the Asia Pacific, international travel demand from this region is quite low – 17 per cent of pre-Covid levels. This is because these countries have some of the strictest Covid-19 travel policies, restricting travel mobility.
Domestic travel demand in the region has been noticeable. Japan alone has seen monthly gains, with domestic passenger-kilometres (RPKs) going up 57 per cent, year-on-year – a considerable increase from a 46.5 per cent hike in March 2022. The current numbers are 27.3 per cent below pre-pandemic levels.
The available data does not show the number of international departures made from Pakistan or by Pakistani passport holders. But available data does show that international outbound visitors from Pakistan spent $1.25 billion on international tourism expenditures, including payment to foreign carriers, in 2020.
Pakistani passport holders can travel to these locations without a visa: Cook Islands, Micronesia, Niue, Vanuatu, Dominica, Haiti, Montserrat, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago. They can enjoy the visa-on-arrival facility in these countries: Palau Islands, Samoa, Tuvalu, Qatar, Cambodia, Maldives, Nepal, Timor-Leste, Burundi, Cape Verde Islands, Comoro Islands, Guinea-Bissau, Madagascar, Mauritania, Mozambique, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Tanzania, Togo and Uganda.
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