The Pakistani passport

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Successes for the Pakistani passport were minor in the 2019 ranking of Henley and Partners’ Passport Index. Data from the International Air Transport Association was used to rank passports from 104 countries, primarily based on the number of countries to which they provide visa-free access. Pakistan was ranked 102, only two spots up from last place. This was similar to last year, where 106 spots were ranked with Pakistan only at 104. There were no changes between this year and last year in terms of the number of countries Pakistani passport holders could access without visas, stagnant at 33. Although Pakistan is experiencing development in certain areas, it continues to be ranked, on this and other indices, among various war-ridden countries — owing to the constant anti-state elements that wreak havoc in them — including Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and Syria.

It is plausible that Pakistan is ranked amongst war-ridden countries, however. We, too, have anti-state actors that operate within, some that are alleged to have woven their way into political alliances in the past. Further, we remain ranked beneath other war-torn countries including Palestine and Yemen.

Having made no progress in terms of visa-free entry to more countries, loose policies, frail security infrastructure, and lackadaisical attitudes towards law and order and morals are reflected within the Pakistani culture. The nature of large-scale attacks in the country has been to target certain ethnicities and religions, along with schoolchildren and activists. Rights violations are plentiful pointing to weak ethical values overall. In such scenarios, trust from other country governments is difficult to achieve.

With some change in policy with the PTI, as well as the face-saving and revamping work the party is doing running from pillar to post and country to country, the Pakistani passport may receive more respect and acceptance in the future. Pakistanis looking to visit other countries should not entirely be disheartened. Nonetheless, an empirical way to build respect and trust between Pakistan and other nations is for Pakistanis themselves to start respecting their own country. This does not mean pretentiously building up our image as a safe and beautiful country up north with strong family and cultural values, but by also acknowledging that we ourselves are responsible for the litter we see around the south and by promoting tolerance and acceptance of others, not just of blood relations. We must also have better reporting facilities for anti-corruption campaigns.

Government responsibility also remains. Pakistan has had poor bookkeeping practices largely since its inception. Background checks were nonexistent and borders unguarded. Performing evil deeds was easy meaning the country attracted corrupt elements and served as a safe haven for people when they defaulted abroad and returned. Nadra and the Government of Pakistan, though working more actively than before, have more face-saving to do in light of this latest passport ranking.