Dubai: The Pakistani mission in the UAE is considering outsourcing its passport services to cope with the heavy rush of applicants, said a top diplomat.
"In principle, we have already taken the decision to outsource our passport services," said Jamil Ahmad Khan, newly-appointed Ambassador of Pakistan to the UAE.
He said they were already in talks with some courier companies to provide the service to cut down trips of applicants to the missions and make it easy for them to get their Machine Readable Passports (MRPs) which are now mandatory in getting UAE visas.
In an exclusive interview with Gulf News, Khan spoke about a range of issues pertaining to Pakistan-UAE relations, the signing of new agreements and Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) and his plans to improve consular services at the Pakistan Embassy in Abu Dhabi and its Consulate-General in Dubai.
He also outlined his plans to provide cheaper health care facilities to community members. He said there is an urgent need to have bigger mission buildings as existing facilities at the Pakistani missions are inadequate as the number of Pakistanis in the UAE has increased to 1.2 million from just 300,000 in 1990s.
"It will be an ideal situation to have bigger premises but it is not possible at the moment because of the financial crunch," he said.
The ambassador has already taken up the matter of extending its existing buildings, a matter which has been pending for years.
Until the Pakistan government gives a go ahead to expand the mission buildings, he has decided to do remodelling of the existing available space at the missions and increase the number of staff with more counters to accomodate the estimated 1,200 people who visit the missions daily for various services, mainly for getting the MRPs.
"We cannot just sit and wait for the community to keep on suffering," he said.
The new ambassador who assumed his office on November 14, has been upset with time wasted due to huge rush and long queues of applicants at the missions. He also did not like the way the community members are treated at the counters.
"We are trying to improve our existing administrative system of queuing, attestation and dealing with people. I have directed staff to take a more humane approach in talking to applicants who come from long distances to get consular services," Khan said.
The ambassador is working on plans to reach out to community because he believes that "missions are nothing without the community".
"Involving our community in important issues and sorting out problems with mutual consent will be my priority number one because we need our community's help to solve all our problems efficiently," he said.
He said he would frame a charter for all Pakistani associations to improve their working for better service of the community.
"I urge the community members to participate in the activities of various associations and voluntary organisations to improve the plight of less privileged members of the community," he said.
Khan has also started working on plans to provide online service to the community as it will not only be convenient for the community but also help reduce rush at the missions and save their time and money. "I have already instructed to rebuild website for the Pakistan Embassy and its Consulate General and they should be ready within the next three months," he said.
Apart from information about the consular services, investment and business information and other related information, all the application forms will also be available online so that applicants can download them and save their time.
He also plans to introduce online appointment system for passport and visa applicants in a bid to streamline the services.
Talking about the UAE-Pakistan relations, Khan said both countries have very deep rooted relations and based on that they have already signed some 16 MoUs and agreements.
Mutual legal assistance in criminal matters is one of the MoUs in the pipeline while transfer of sentenced prisoners between the two countries is another one which is in its final stages.
"Both the MoUs are very important and are aimed to further improve mutual cooperation on security issues," he noted.
Affordable health care centres
Meanwhile, the Pakistani mission in cooperation with the community and the host government will open affordable health care centres in different parts of the UAE, said Pakistan Ambassador Jamil Ahmad Khan.
"The first ever Pakistan Medical Centre will soon be opened in Ras Al Khaimah in cooperation with the government," Khan told Gulf News.
He said the centre will be run on non-for-profit basis and will provide affordable health care facilities to Pakistanis who cannot afford medical treatment.
"We are also in talks with the officials to allow us get medicines directly from the companies or from Pakistan as it would be helpful for the less privileged members of the community," he said.
The centre will also be open to other communities.
The ambassador said he will also ask the Pakistani government to include the mandatory free health care provision in the employment contracts of workers recruited by companies to work abroad.
"We want to bring the health care provision system for all our workers here at par as they all should get full medical treatment," he said, adding that many low paid workers suffer whenever they require medical attention as their companies do not provide medical cover promised to them.
Profile: Jamil Ahmad Khan
Jamil Ahmad Khan took charge of his office on November 14 as the new Ambassador of Pakistan to the UAE.
Khan served as ambassador to Libya from April 17, 2009 to October 2010 before coming to the UAE on his new assignment.
Khan is known as a thorough professional with vast experience in military, police, security, management and diplomatic front. He is also known as a close aide of President Asif Ali Zardari.
He also served as police chief in a number of cities in Pakistan. Khan holds Masters Degree in Social Studies and Economics from the UK and has also earned a master's degree in political science from Pakistan.