At the immigration counter there, Haqqani showed his Pakistani passport as a proof of travel document

ISLAMABAD: Afghanistan’s Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani was among thousands of Afghan citizens who had Pakistani passports until recently. The News has learnt from interior ministry officials that these passports were issued from different cities of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Sindh.

Haqqani was issued a Pakistani passport for five years which he used to travel abroad, particularly to Qatar for negotiations with the United States for the signing of the Doha Agreement that resulted in the latter’s exit from Afghanistan. Two passport officials involved in issuing Haqqani’s passport have been arrested, one of whom had retired from service by the time the action was started against him.

A well-placed official who is privy to the ongoing cleansing of the record has said that “Around 30,000–40,000 passports issued to Afghan nationals have been blocked.” Passport offices in different cities — like Thatta and Karachi in Sindh — are said to have facilitated them. Without naming the specific cities of Balochistan and KP, the official said that passport offices in different cities in these provinces were also found involved in this malpractice.

As for Haqqani’s case, the authorities got wind of the matter through a Peshawar-based journalist who happened to be on the same flight to Doha as Haqqani. At the immigration counter there, Haqqani showed his Pakistani passport as a proof of travel document. This left the journalist puzzled over how Haqqani had managed to get a Pakistani passport.

But it was only in August this year that the journalist brought the matter to the attention of passport authorities during a discussion. When checked, his information proved correct and an inquiry into the matter determined that the passport was issued from Peshawar during the PTI government’s tenure. The issuing officer said he was approached by someone who introduced himself as a serving senior officer from an intelligence agency and who then asked for the production of travel documents for Haqqani.

When further pressed about the identity of the officer, the issuing officer said he was not sure about his real identity as the man had directed him on the phone. Department action started against the issuing officer and the person involved in the printing of the passport. Both of them are behind the bars now, it has been learnt.

This information coincides with intelligence received from Saudi authorities who had initially shared with the Pakistani government samples of Pakistani passports obtained by Afghan nationals to secure jobs in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Since the government was keen to follow the case, it came to know through the Saudis that there were more than 12,000 such cases.

Their passports were cancelled and those found involved in using forged documents were deported to Afghanistan.

The government then decided to conduct a thorough investigation and it was discovered that the number of the passports issued to Afghan nationals ranged between 30,000 and 40,000. All of them have been cancelled and the officials involved in their issuance and production have been proceeded against through the FIA.

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