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UK visa scam : Thousands lose passports

Thousands of UK visa seekers lose passports
Islamabad, April 03: While the British High Commission hogs on to its claim of having lost just 150 Pakistani passports, additional evidence has come to light suggesting that the scam involves thousands of lost travel documents.

A Pakistani investigating agency is in possession of a list of 3,362 passports, which are believed to have gone missing at one time.

The investigators do not preclude the possibility of some of those passports having been traced subsequently, but say they do not have any information of such recoveries.

Nevertheless, the sheer number of passports suspected to be missing reflects the enormity of the crisis.

Separately, investigators are probing fresh allegations of theft of visa stickers from passports.

The scandal surfaced late last year when the high commission reported unusually high number of lost passports.

An inquiry was initiated by the mission, but it is not yet known what actually caused the loss of such a large number of passports.

Extensive investigations involving interviews with officials at out-sourced visa application centres and employees of the high commission, revealed that the case had roots in the change of visa processing procedures introduced after the implementation of 'hub and spoke' model, which had last year also caused a massive visa application logjam at the British mission in Islamabad.

The high commission initially tried to send all passports to Abu Dhabi the regional hub for 'decision making'.

One of the consignments, it has been revealed, was seized by the UAE authorities, who got suspicious about the transfer of a large number of passports.

The matter was eventually resolved on intervention from London, but not before an unspecified number of passports had been lost.

Consequently, the United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA) which manages visa operations, sources said, increased pressure on Islamabad to permit the transfer of passports to Abu Dhabi for processing.

But, pending the official authorisation from the Pakistan government that was given in January this year, the shipment of passports abroad was suspended. It was precisely at this juncture, it is believed, that a larger number of passports went missing.

How did it happen? Sources disclosed that when VSF, a private firm, joined Gerry's in handling the UK visa application centres in Pakistan, it found huge stacks of unattended passports lying in their stores. It is said the passports were then properly listed and sent to the high commission.

The list of 3,362 passports was shared by the sources with this correspondent.

It is said that subsequently nothing was heard about those passports.

"It is quite possible that when the visa logjam ended, BHC officials were not able to properly correlate the application forms returned from Abu Dhabi with piled-up passports, and conveniently reported lost documents."

When asked to comment, spokesman for the high commission said the passports had been transferred under strict UKBA observation and secure procedures.

He explained the process employed for shifting passports, but did not explicitly deny that 3,362 passports had been transferred and most of them remain unaccounted. He also did not say anything about seizure of a consignment of passports by UAE authorities.

Another aspect that was revealed by investigation is the poor perusal of documents sent to FIA for verification.

There is no independent confirmation that this could be one of the reasons behind the loss of passports, but sources insisted it had regularly resulted in loss of documents.

"BHC hardly pursues the cases it sends for verification to FIA. It is left to the applicants, if they ever come to know that their documents are being scrutinised, to push for expeditious verification and return of those documents to the high commission or else they remain there (at FIA) forever."

The spokesman denied this saying: "There is no link between missing passports and verification at FIA."

In a new twist to the saga, some applicants have reported that on receipt of their passports they found out that visa stickers for other countries were missing.

In at least one instance the FIA is currently probing theft of five Schengen visa stickers at Gerry's.

There are other cases in which it has been alleged that stickers were removed while the passports were in FIA's possession for verification.

Sources indicated that a cover-up of the sticker theft was being worked out. The FIA authorities approached for comments refused to discuss the matter.

Clarifications were also sought from Gerry's and VSF on the issue of lost passports and sticker theft, but they too declined to say anything. Dawn

Your Comments
"I am also one of the sufferer in hands of British High Commission here in Pakistan...Its all started when i receive letter from my Fellow Uni. in London inviting me to attend the Conference hosted by them... as i traveled in past too ... So for that i went to get the visit visa in order to attend the Conference schedule to be hosted in August 2009 ... i submitted my Passport with the invitation letter and all other required documents with Visa Fee before 2 months i.e in June 2009 they gave me 2 weeks time .... so i waited for weeks after 2 weeks i contacted the High Commission Karachi to inquire about the status about the visa ... they tole me wait one week more,.. so after 1 week i again contacted but then again they told me due to Bigger number of Applications for Visa it takes more time to process the applications they told me u will get ur passport in time before the conference ... After 2 weeks when Only 14 days left to make it the conference ... i contacted again they told me wait 2 - 3 day more... this situation now makes me angry and i busted on phone that u hopeless Embassy Staff every time asking me to wait i only 14 dayz left and in that time i need to confirm the my seat .... but without my passport i cant able to do so... They try to calm me and said Mr Faizan u will get ur passport in 2 3 dayz time... i warned them they should make my passport on time or else i will dragged all embassy staff to court ... they assure me that i will get my passport...I trust them and call them again after the time ... and still i heard that my application is in process .... this makes me so much angry that i decided to cancel my application i went to the BHC Visa centre and asked them i donot want to travel to attend the confernce in london kindly returned all my documents and passport ....they told me that i t will took 2 weeks more time to get ur passport because ur passport is in Abudhabi for Visa processing ... I gave them in writing that i dont want to process my application as now its no time left for me and i am no more interested ... after 2 weeks i went to Visa Processing centre they told this disturbing news that my passport has been lost .... AHHH ! now i understand ... i reported this to FIA and with Police ... After some dayz ... News reports emerge that some 4 thousands Pakistani passports have lost by British High Commission in Pakistan... this shocked me .... and Still this day ,... many other like me r waiting for the outcome.... I served them legal notices, i have phone calls record with the embassy staff... i will not let them walk away ruining my life ... as all my original documents my original passport ... I request to all other Misfortunes like me to post ur Info here about the harassment we get from the BHC Staff here .. Lets organize to take the British High Commission Staff to Court for the loss we bear "
Name: Faizan Mirza
City, Country: Karachi, Pakistan

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UoP bans student bodies
Peshawar: Imposing a complete ban on all student federations and regional associations, Vice-Chancellor, University of Peshawar, Prof Dr Azmat Hayat Khan, on Friday said a clean-up operation would be launched in hostels to ensure peaceful environment on the campus before reopening the university.

Chairing a meeting, the vice-chancellor said fresh affidavits would be taken from all the students and anyone found involved in political activities would be expelled from the university. The vice-chancellor said no book fair or Dars-e-Quran would be allowed in the university and the hostels would remain closed during summer.

He added keeping and display of arms was strictly banned in the university and the violators would be arrested and punished. The participants of the meeting were also informed that the Jinnah College for Women and Home Economics College would reopen from April 5 along with the Islamia College University, while the rest of the departments and institutes of the university would be reopened phase-wise in the next 15 days.

Dr Azmat Hayat also warned the teachers and other staff members to avoid taking part in political activities and creating disturbance on the campus or strict action would be taken against them.

The meeting, which was attended by the registrar, administration officer and deans of all the faculties, also imposed an immediate ban on entrance of rickshaws and taxicabs into the university. The vice-chancellor directed the administration officer to arrange efficient intra-campus transport service to facilitate the students.

He said the prime responsibility of the university administration was to have a check on all the students and staffers creating unrest in the university, as their activities left adverse effects on the precious time and studies of thousands of students.

The vice-chancellor directed the provost to issue directives to wardens and Class-IV staff of the hostels to keep the administration informed of the activities of students.

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NLA publishes new 'Miyari Urdu Qaida'
Islamabad: The National Language Authority (NLA) has published 'Miyari Urdu Qaida' keeping in view the modern standards of linguistics and needs of Urdu language in present era.

NLA Chairman Iftikhar Arif said that the new 'Urdu Qaida' will prove beneficial for students as well as teachers to learn and teach Urdu language.

The authority has brought changes in the 'Urdu Qaida' over the years and the new one is published to simplify the language learning process, he said.

A committee was formed under the supervision of renowned scholar and Dean Linguistics Department, International Islamic University Islamabad (IIUI), Dr. Moin-ud-din Aqeel to compile the 'Urdu Qaida'. Dr. Aqeel said the students, teachers, parents and educationists will find it a comprehensive and standard 'qaida', which will help promoting Urdu language. Prominent scholar and former chairman Urdu Lughat Board, Dr.

Rauf Parekh, Incharge Urdu Department IIUI Women Campus, Dr. Najiba Arif and Vice Chairman, Muhammad Islam Nashter were members of the committee.

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Students week begins at women varsity
Rawalpindi: The 12th Women's Week commenced at the Fatima Jinnah Women University (FJWU) here on Friday.

The theme for this year is 'Hope and Tolerance'. Different competitions, including Qira'at and Na'at, Bilingual Declamation, Mehfil-e-Mushaira, Quiz, Photography, Painting, Drama and Singing, are scheduled to be held during the week.

The activities are organised with an optimum objective to showcase and foster the students' creative and spiritual capabilities. Qira'at and Na'at competitions were among the first day activities held on Friday. The judges for Qira'at competition were Qari Najam Mustafa, chairman of the International Quran Academy, and Asim Qureshi, web administrator at the FJWU.

The participants mesmerised the audience with their soulful voices. FJWU Vice Chancellor Professor Dr. Saeeda Asadullah Khan was also present on the occasion.

The chief guest, Qari Manzoor-ul-Qonain, appreciated the university administration for organising these competitions. He congratulated the winning students and also presented a beautiful Na'at. He said that the active participation of students in this competition reflects their deep love of our young generation with Almighty Allah and Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

According to the judgment as per criterion, the winners for the Qira'at competition were: Samina of International Islamic University, Islamabad, secured the first position; second position went to Muhammad Hussain Jan of Federal Urdu University while Farhad Ali Shah of Foundation University bagged the third position.

In the Na'at competition, Sidra Rana of Iqra University won the first prize while second prize was given to Sadia Akram of Allama Iqbal Open University. Third prize was given to Nazia Ayub of International Islamic University, Islamabad.

In the Mastermind Quiz that was held later in the day, the University of Engineering and Technology, Taxila, won the title of the event whereas the Institute of Space and Technology was runner-up. Five teams from different institutions participated in the competition. The purpose of organising the event was to encourage the young students to upscale their IQ level and knowledge orientation. In three rounds, the teams were asked questions from different categories, including General Knowledge, Current Affairs, Sports, Art and Culture, Science, Literature, History and Pakistan.

Professor Dr. Saeeda Asadullah Khan appreciated the efforts of the participating institutions. "These types of competitions sharpen the minds of the students and help them enhance their abilities," she said and advised the students to indulge themselves in book reading beyond textbooks.

The vice chancellor thanked the participating institutions and distributed prizes among the winners.

The participants keenly took part in the painting competition. The relentless hard work put in by the participants was evident by a large variety of paintings on display. Aleem Dad was the judge of the event. Shagufta Yasmeen of International Islamic University, Islamabad, was honoured with the first prize followed by Taha Hassan of Allama Iqbal Open University. Hamza Tariq of Federal Urdu University was declared third in the painting competition.

A Flower Arrangement Competition was also held as part of the Women's Week. The event was divided into two categories, Dry Flower Arrangement and Fresh Flower Arrangement. The judges of the event were Asma Ansari and Saeeda Khanum. According to the decision of the judges in the Dry Flower Arrangement Event, first prize went to Shania Anum of Federal Urdu University. In Fresh Flower Arrangement Category, Adeela Rehman of Allama Iqbal Open University secured first position. Sania Saeed of Federal Urdu University won second position, whereas Shaista Shafaq of International Islamic University, Islamabad, got third position.

A three-day 'Artisans Mela' was also organized on the occasion. Professor Dr. Saeeda Asadullah Khan inaugurated the festival and visited the stalls. Artists and students from all over Pakistan have set up stalls of handicrafts, woodwork, rugs, clothing, accessories, interior decor and greetings cards. Other stalls sold exquisite gems and jewellery. The items presented in the 'Artisans Mela' are mostly handmade. Besides this, there are also stalls of diverse and delicious cuisines.

On the second day of the Women's Week, Bilingual Declamation, Photography Competition and 'Mushaira' will be held. Sports Competitions are also a part of the Women's Week. Badminton, volleyball and cricket matches will be organized.

The closing ceremony will be held on April 4 on the campus in which prizes and trophies will be distributed. The news

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Quality assurance vital to socio-economic change: IIUI president
Islamabad: Quality higher education, competitiveness and the capacity to innovate are vital to bring-socio-economic change in this country, said International Islamic University Islamabad (IIUI) President Prof Dr Anwar Hussain Siddiqui on Friday.

He was addressing a seminar on Quality Assurance in Higher Education at the university.

He said quality assurance was an uphill task and it could not be accomplished without whole-hearted efforts of the academia and the administrative staff. He advised the faculty and quality enhancement cell to do it with patience and consistence. Siddiqui assured his full support to achieve the quality objectives.

National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST) Director Quality Assurance Engineer Air Commodore (r) Muhammad Ismail in keynote address explained the need, concept and mechanism of quality assurance.

Ismail said quality assurance could not happen automatically or accidentally and it was moral obligation of teachers to give the best possible to their students. He introduced various essentials for improvement of quality including infrastructure, quality of students, instructional, learning environment and research environment and assessment procedures. He identified focus areas for quality initialisation such as curriculum development, improvement in delivery and assessment methods and enhancement of R&D programmes of the university.

Study tour: Department of English, IIUI Female Campus, organised a study tour to National Language Authority (NLA). NLA Chairman Iftikhar Arif and Dr Atash Durrani briefed the students about importance of translation and the scope of translation studies as a separate subject at the graduate and postgraduate level. Daily times

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