Oddity in visa policy
By: Asif Noorani
THE much-awaited changes in the visa policy signed by the representatives of Pakistan and India are more advantageous to businessmen than to the common people. The only two advantages the lesser mortals will have is that they will be able to visit five cities instead of three on each trip and they will have the option of entering and exiting from different places.
As for senior citizens, they will hardly have any advantage apart from being exempted from police reporting. They will get visa on arrival only if they take the rigorous land route and cross the border at the Wagah-Attari checkposts on foot. But those taking flights to Delhi or Mumbai will have to go through the visa rigmaroles as in the past.
The much publicised concessions of visa being issued on arrival for senior citizens provided they cross the border on foot doesn’t mean much. If a 65-plus person has to go from Karachi or Hyderabad to Delhi he (or she) will have to take a train or a flight to Lahore, take a taxi for Wagah, cross the border on foot, hire a taxi for Amritsar and then board a train or a flight, subject to the availability of seats, to New Delhi. The return journey will be just as cumbersome. Those travelling by air or train will have to apply for visa in much the same old way.
It is also time Pakistan allowed India to reopen its consulate in Karachi. If India is unable to provide accommodation to the Pakistan government to open a visa office in Mumbai, the next best option would be Hyderabad (Andhra Pradesh).
Finally, one is baffled why our High Commission in New Delhi is not authorised to accept visa applications couriered from visa-seekers in different parts of the huge country. Poor visa applicants (or their representatives) have to submit their applications in person at the counter in the High Commission and get their passports, with or without stamped visa, back in person.
The Indian High Commission, on the other hand, accepts visa applications if sent by one of the two designated courier services in Pakistan.