FIA in a hurry to wind up visa probe
By: Zulqernain Tahir
LAHORE: The Federal Investigation Agency, which acted with unnecessary haste, after a British tabloid came with a sensational report alleging that fake passports and visas are being issued in Pakistan, and arrested employees of the National Database and Registration Authority and the passport office, now wants to wrap up its investigation quickly to avoid further embarrassment.
The FIA had to eat humble pie when its boss, Adviser to the PM on Interior Affairs Rehman Malik, reportedly directed it to stop ‘arresting and harassing’ the employees of Lahore offices of Nadra and passport office after an ‘investigation’ by Nadra revealed that no illegality had been committed in issuing the computerised national identity card (CNIC) and passport to the man sent to Pakistan by the London tabloid The Sun as an undercover investigator.
“We had no option after the order of our boss but to rush to pick up the staff involved in issuing the CNIC and passport to The Sun’s man, Mohammad Ali Asad,” a senior FIA official told Dawn on Thursday.
The arrests should have been made only after the involvement of any official was proved. “But everyone here in the FIA Lahore was trying to please the boss without concluding the probe,” he said. The FIA Lahore also showed haste in registering an FIR on the basis of the report in The Sun which the government has now described as ‘false and fabricated’.
“We had to get remand of four officials – Asif, Wasif, Mukhtar and Fahim – of Nadra and the passport office from a magistrate because we had shown their arrest in the case,” he said, adding that since there was no complainant in the case, the FIA should have demonstrated maturity and made the arrests after completion of the investigation.
“The irony of the matter is that The Sun was a complainant in the case and we had no evidence against them (arrested officials). They will be released on Saturday on completion of their remand because we are not going to pursue it,” said the FIA official who is part of the investigation team.
Meanwhile, officers of the passport offices in Lahore went on medical leave to register their protest against the ‘non-professional approach’ of the interior ministry and FIA. “How irresponsible our agencies are in investigating such matters?” commented a passport official who had been interrogated by the FIA.
He expressed the hope that in future the investigation agencies would act responsibly on such reports.
“Can the FIA or Rehman Malik do anything to restore our image which was tarnished by the arrests and humiliation,” he asked. Some Nadra officials who spoke to Dawn on Thursday expressed the same feelings.
The Sun had claimed that the officials first provided its undercover investigator (Asad) with a genuine Pakistani passport in a false name. The information was backed by a video footage of Abid Chaudhry of Dream Land travel agency claiming that for around £7,000 he could get its man a two-month visa… and smuggle him into London as part of Pakistan’s Olympic squad.
Nadra, however, came up with its own investigation and said: “No fraud or illegal activity has been committed while obtaining the CNIC and passport of The Sun’s man – Mohammad Ali Asad, son of Mohammad Anwer Siddique. Documentary and video evidence proves that Mr Asad was present for the renewal of his expired CNIC.”