ISLAMABAD - The crisis of delay in issuance of thousands of passports would loom large as the Interior Ministry, ahead of the dissolution of the PPP-led government, got cancelled the contract for the import of passport lamination papers with the German company just to sign a new contract with another firm allegedly to receive kickbacks, TheNation has learnt.

Sources said all this was done on the insistence of two top bosses of the Passport Directorate who had the backing of Director General (DG) Immigration and Passports Syed Wajid Bokhari, once a blue eyed of former interior minister Rehman Malik and Project Director Machine Readable Passport (MRP) Project Maqbool Gondal, hailing from District Mandi Bahauddin and a confidant of another former PPP federal minister.

As the contract was cancelled with the previous firm, now the Directorate General of Immigration and Passports had no security laminate necessary for the issuance of new passports.

A well-informed source Thursday told TheNation that these two top bosses of the Passport Directorate convinced the former interior minister to cancel the contract with the German company and not to renew it for the import of lamination papers used in the issuance of passports. "All this was done to sign the contract with another foreign country firm allegedly to have kickbacks," he added.

Ultimately, the Interior Ministry got cancelled the contract on the directions of the former interior minister and it could not complete the process of tendering necessary to sign a new contract till the government stood dissolved on March 16.

According to rough estimates, the backlog of passports has crossed the figure of four hundred thousands and in future the figure would continue increasing leaving the poor masses at the mercy of officials of the passport office.

Now a blame game is at its peak as the Ministry of Interior and Passport Directorate are alleging each other for the whole mess. An official of the Directorate General Passports blamed the former interior minister Rehman Malik for the whole chaos and alleged that the minister had opened the whole pandora box. However, he refused to answer the query about the role of two top baboos of the directorate. At the same time, the crisis would take an ugly turn when Hajj season would start and it is feared that thousands of Pakistanis would be deprived of the performance of their religious duty due to the non-issuance of new passports.

DG Immigration and Passports Syed Wajid Bokhari refused meeting with this correspondent when his office was visited here on Thursday, saying he was busy and expressed his inability to give his version on the whole affair. Hameed Ahmed, PSO to DG informed that the issue was likely to resolve as the tendering process (requests for proposal -RFP) had been initiated. He said that a high-powered committee, including secretary interior, additional secretary interior, DG Passports and project director of MRP Project were the members of the committee who would except or reject the proposal of any firm for the supply of security laminate. He, however, said that PD Maqbool Gondal could better brief this reporter on the issue.

PD Maqbool Gondal refused comment on the whole matter while he was busy in gossiping with some of his personal guests during official timing and said his seniors could better explain the issue. When he was asked that he was a public servant and bound to answer such queries, he gave irrational answer, saying that this correspondent should be aware of the hierarchy of this Directorate. He even refused to say a single word in this connection.

Meanwhile, Acting President Syed Nayyer Hussain Bokhari has taken notice of various reports of inordinate delay in the issuance of passports to the citizens. He has referred the matter to the Senate Standing Committee on Interior, under Rule 166 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Senate and asked the committee to examine the reasons for inordinate delay and suggest concrete measures to clear the backlog as well ensure timely issuance of passports. The acting president has directed that the committee must report back the matter within two weeks time.