Babar Haq

Monday, April 23, 2012

Pakistani embassy, Riyadh

Recently, for the first time I had the chance to use one of the services offered by our Pakistani embassy in Riyadh. My passport was out of pages so I had to get a new one. The purpose of this post is not to bash our embassy for all its inefficiencies. In fact I want to appreciate it for doing a good job and suggest a few improvements. My guess is they entertain around 500 passport applications a day. Handling such a crowd (keeping in mind our nation's attitude) is not a simple job.

Now, the Pakistani embassy in Riyadh can also process applications for computerized passports. NADRA has developed an automated system to handle passport requests in Pakistan and it seems like they have replicated exactly the same system in Riyadh embassy.

I had to take a day off from office in Dhahran to go to Riyadh for this. They follow a "token" system. I had been told that I have to be there early in the morning to collect my "token". Tokens usually finish by 8+ am. There is only certain number of passport applications that can be processed in a day so the tokens are limited. I reached there at 7:45am and the token number I got was like 100 +. The guy handing out the tokens advised me that this would turn up some where around 11am. So I went for breakfast, came back around 11am and waited till 2pm. This is when my turn came. Once your number actually turns up, the whole process takes only 15 minutes. All this unnecessary wait causes severe congestion at the premises which results in a lot of unpleasant incidents.

There are a lot of ways this can be controlled. In today's high-tech world, implementing a simple appointment scheduling system over the phone/Internet is not difficult. In fact both methods can be used in parallel. A quick search on Google showed me a couple of open source solutions as well. Yes, the solution to the problem is that simple. This will avoid all the crowding at the embassy and also help people plan their visit.

Unfortunately there is no way to convey any feedback to the embassy. There is no comment/suggestion box at the embassy and no working email contact. Currently they have two websites. One is linked via the new (ugly) renovated Ministry of Foreign Affairs portal and the other is this old one. It looks like the consulate is currently using the old one. The contact email address on them is No matter how hard you try you will never get a response from this address. In fact they have actually removed the address from the older site now.

There must be a way to get in touch with Ministry of Foreign Affairs in such cases where local embassies cannot be contacted. Would definitely expect better performance from mofa under the leadership of our highly qualified foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar.

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