Delay in issuing United Kingdom visas to Pakistanis

Delay in issuing UK visas to Pakistani passport holders
Islamabad, Oct 6: The UK secretary for home affairs, Alan Johnson, is expected in Islamabad today to address the simmering anger over the inordinate, scandalous delay in issuing visas to Pakistani passport holders. According to a report in this newspaper yesterday, an estimated 200,000 passports are piled up in the UK high commission in Islamabad and 2,000 passports are being added every week - with little indication that the backlog will be cleared any time soon. While Pakistanis face cumbersome visa application processes at the best of times, the extra ordinary difficulties in acquiring a UK visa are unacceptable and unnecessary. Admittedly, there are genuine concerns that some Pakistani passport holders may pose a security threat, but the hurdles created by the UK authorities are unique. No other country - not the US, not other western European countries, not the Gulf or Arab states - has such onerous requirements, whereas arguably the potential security threats they have to address are no less severe. It is true that the volume of visa applications that the UK authorities must process from Pakistan is high, but volume alone does not account for the problems.

The biggest difficulty created by the UK authorities is the requirement that its high commission in Islamabad retain the passport of a visa applicant for the entire duration of the process. Given the months-long delay in many instances, this effectively means that many applicants are prisoners within their own country, unable to visit other countries until the UK authorities return their passports. The other major problem is the increasing rate of rejections now that visa applications are being processed in Abu Dhabi. Unfamiliar with Pakistan and its processes, visa officers in Abu Dhabi appear to be going 'by the book' too much. Bank statements, residential addresses and other details are apparently being parsed too closely by visa officers who are not familiar with, say, the difference between a statement issued by a foreign bank operating in the country and one issued by a local bank in small town Pakistan. Moreover, since the law prohibits an embassy from sending Pakistani passports out of the country, visa officers are deciding about forgery and fraud on the basis of photocopied documents.

The list of complaints is long and complex, but the solutions are not. In the short term, the UK needs to devote more resources to clear the enormous backlog of visa applications; something which should not be very difficult given the high visa application fees charged. In the medium term, the process must be returned to Pakistani shores - if every other country can operate from here, then so can the UK authorities. Dawn

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Development projects launched for the uplift of rural areas
Islamabad: The Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) administration has launched a number of development projects for the uplift of rural areas of Islamabad and special attention is being paid to health and education sectors in the rural area.

Basic Health Units and Rural Health Centers are being upgraded and educational buildings in the rural areas are being strengthened and up-graded, a high official of ICT said here.

He informed that there was a shortfall of funds under the Islamabad development package and Public Sector Development Programmes.

"If the funds are timely released, work on the ongoing development schemes could be expedited for their completion within the stipulated time," he maintained.

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More incentives for teachers demanded
Islamabad: On the eve of Teacher's Day, the teacher community has reminded the government to fulfill the promises made by every government or else they would start a countrywide protest movement to realise their unheeded demands and for the revival of their lost self-respect.

"Three years ago on the same day former prime minister Shoukat Aziz had announced that the teachers of schools, colleges and universities would be given one step up-gradation but despite the lapse of three years the decision was not implemented in school and colleges while at the level of universities it has been implemented", Professor Qasim Masood, Information Secretary of All Pakistan Professors and Lecturers Association, informed when the Teachers' Day is being observed in the world.

He said in NWFP the teachers observed the day while protesting against the attitude of the government towards the pitiable situation of the teachers. He was of the view that the teachers of the other provinces would express their solidarity with them and would join their protest movement if their demands remain unheard. The teachers regretted that even the Musharraf government used to celebrate the event and holding a convention on the eve of Teachers' Day was a regular activity but the present government even wasn't bothered to hold such event.

Recognition of one's service is a motivating factor but teachers have been suffering from inferiority complex due to the gross negligence by the government, said a teacher.

They were of the view that the present pay scales of the posts are considered grossly incommensurate with the qualifications and experience prescribed for appointments for these posts. There has been no specific promotion policy for teachers of 435 schools of the Capital while all the provincial governments have announced special packages for the teacher community.

"Its very unfortunate that teachers of the Capital have been working in the same grades for the last 23 years with no incentives. Even the recently announced education policy has nothing to offer to the teachers. And the schoolteacher against this inhuman attitude of the government are going to move the Supreme Court", lamented Ali Sher Rind, General Secretary of Federal Government Teachers' Association.

The college and university lecturers and professors across the country have been witnessing the same problem because of lack of any clear promotion policy. The nation

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Teachers witness National Assembly proceedings
Islamabad: The local teachers Monday witnessed the National Assembly proceedings on the invitation of Speaker Dr Fahmida Mirza on the occasion of International Teachers Day. The House paid tribute to the teachers on their arrival. Education Minister Mir Hazar Khan Bijarani said that teachers were a vital part of the nation and the future of nation was in their hands. "We have protected their interests in the new educational policy and they would be given their due status in the society," he remarked. Opposition Leader Chaudhry Nisar Ahmad urged the government to take practical steps for the well-being of the teachers rather than paying tributes to them. "Five percent of GDP should be set aside for the promotion of education in the next budget and there should be no discrimination in the promotions of teachers," Nisar demanded. Legislator Azra Afzal called for enhancement in the salaries of teachers. Riaz Hussain Pirzada said it was teacher who made man a perfect human being adding the nations who disregarded teachers did not progress. Daily times

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CJP takes suo moto notices
Islamabad: Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has taken a suo moto notice on an application of a teacher, Abid Ali s/o Nazir Ahmed r/o Bathian, Hafizabad.

In his application, he had requested that he was performing his duties as a teacher in Raj International School at Pindi Bathian on April 16, 2009, when hooligans of an influential feudal Aurengzeb s/o Munawar Cheema, came and ordered him to close the school. When he refused, they tortured and disgraced him.

The chief justice ordered to forward the case to the PPO, Punjab, for its disposal and report within a fortnight.Similarly, the chief justice has also taken suo moto notice on an application of Aliya Zafar advocate. In her application, she stated that she applied for post of a civil judge cum judicial magistrate announced by the Punjab Public Service Commission in July 2008. She received a letter from the commission wherein two objections were raised by it on her eligibility. She moved the Lahore High Court, along with others four candidates, and the court decided the case in her favour. Thus, she appeared in the said examination, but her result was withheld. The CJ ordered to call comments from the Punjab Public Service Commission chairman within fortnight.

Likewise, the CJ also took suo moto notice on an appeal of a woman, who said that she was kidnapped along with her two kids and was sexually tortured for more than two months. A report was called from the PPO, Punjab.

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Moot for higher education faculty
Islamabad: The opening ceremony of four-day workshop for the final review of Professional Competency Enhancement Programme for University Teachers (PCEPT) modules started here on Monday.

The workshop was arranged by Pre-Service Teachers Education Programme (Pre-STEP), a project of United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in collaboration with HEC.The ceremony was chaired by Begum Nuzhat Sadiq, MNA and member National Assembly Standing Committee on Education.

Nuzhat Sadiq assured that she would take up the issues faced by HEC for implementing this project at the platform of National Assembly.Teaching faculty is the main pillar of any education system and this workshop will be a sound initiative toward implementing qualitative teaching standards in the country, she said. Nuzhat Sadiq appreciated HEC and USAID for carrying out the efforts for improving the standard of teaching and developing the teaching modules.

The Project National Academy of Higher Education (NAHE), HEC has developed the Teaching Learning Resource Material for the professional development of 2100 faculty members across the country through its PCEPT Programme.

Seven public and private sector universities including Islamia University, Bahawalpur, Agha Khan University, Karachi, University of Education, Lahore, AIOU, Islamabad, Iqra University, Quetta, APCOMS, Rawalpindi, FJWU, Rawalpindi contributed in this joint venture.

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Teachers are nation builders
Rawalpindi: To acknowledge and appreciate the importance and hard work of teachers, students of The City School Junior Branch, Harley Street celebrated Teachers Day here Monday.

The students made cards for their teachers and decorated them with colourful stuff. All the teachers were thrilled to see the creativity put in by their students in the handmade cards, and appreciated their efforts.

A special programme was also arranged on the occasion in which students read out beautiful poems for their teachers and made speeches on the importance of the teaching profession in the light of Holy Quran and Hadiths.

Headmistress The City School Junior Branch Samina Raja, on this special occasion, conveyed her message to all teachers, saying that teachers are the nation builders. "We, as teachers, hold a very important responsibility in order to guide and groom children in the right direction for their future. Moreover, teachers play the role of second parents, as they guide the students towards the right path," she said. The ceremony concluded with a message conveyed by each teacher to the students. The news

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