A hand-written Pakistani passport. Pakistanis applying for a new residence visa should have a machine-readable passport. Image Credit: Devadasan/Gulf News

Dubai: Pakistanis in the UAE and in other Gulf countries have been urged to immediately replace their hand-written or manual passports with the new biometric machine readable passports (MRP) to avoid any hassle in travelling, a senior diplomat has said.

"Please don't wait for the expiry of your old passport and replace it on priority basis with the MRP because the UAE government, following many other countries in the world, has restricted travelling for those using hand-written manual passports," Ambassador of Pakistan Khursheed Ahmad Junejo said.

The UAE government, he said, has already stopped accepting the manual passports with effect from September 15, with no new visas being issued to holders of manual passports, Junejo told Gulf News at a farewell reception hosted in his honour by Raees Quraishi, a prominent community member, at the Avari Hotel in Dubai.

End of term

Ambassador Junejo will relinquish charge of his office on October 30 after completing a two-year tenure in the UAE.

Tarek Somoro, the new Pakistani Council General in Dubai, was also present at the ceremony which was attended by a number of community members.

Junejo added that though the Pakistan government — through its Interior Minister Rahman Malek, who recently visited Abu Dhabi — has already requested the UAE government to give a grace period of one year for accepting the manual passports, it is advisable for all to have the MRP done as soon as possible.

"We hope the UAE government will accept our request for [a] one-year grace period to allow manual passports, which were banned for security concerns," he said.

He added that the manual passports would be abolished completely by 2012.

"Our missions are working at full throttle to issue MRPs as more than 1,200 applicants are visiting both our embassy in Abu Dhabi and the consulate general in Dubai to get the new MRPS," he added.

Talking about his stay in the UAE, Junejo said he was thankful to the community members for standing by them at all times.

He also advised the new consul general to adopt an open-door policy to be a successful diplomat in the UAE and to effectively solve community issues.

Exchange programme: 2,500 prisoners to benefit

Agreement for the prisoners exchange programme between the UAE and Pakistan is expected to be signed by the end of this month after its approval from the federal cabinet in Islamabad, said Pakistani Ambassador Khursheed Ahmad Junejo.

He added that some 2,500 Pakistani prisoners in the UAE jails would benefit from the agreement once it is signed. "Mostly those serving long-term imprisonment including the life sentence will benefit from the agreement as they will be sent back to Pakistan to serve their remaining jail term," Ambassador Junjeo said, adding that there are hardly any Emirati prisoners in Pakistan.

Do you have a hand written passport? Have you faced any difficulties because of it? When will you be replacing it?