Friday 21 August 2015

Disappointment at the Pakistani Consulate New Office in Birmingham at The Wharf

Over the years, we have come across several stories regarding the poor level of customer service provided by the Pakistani consulate across various cities of UK. Here is a recent example of the poor level of service provided in Birmingham (August 21st, 2015):
I had to collect a passport for a family member and was told by the Pakistani consulate to collect it from their new Birmingham office, located at The Wharf (Bridge Street, B1 2JS). I was also given a document which had a collection time (2-3pm) and date on it.
Fully aware of the the lack of efficiency of the consulate, I decided to double check, to make sure that it was indeed the new office I had to collect the passport from, rather than the old one (Hockley, Birmingham).
My cousin went to the consulate a few weeks ago and was told that from Monday 17th August, all services would be shifted to the new office. I also noticed that a few Facebook friends had shared photos of the inauguration of the new office which took place last week.
I prayed Jumma and rushed out of the mosque and made it to the new office for 2pm because that was the collection time. As I was parking my car, I noticed a school friend who I hadn't seen in years (a major coincidence that his office was next to the new consulate and he happened to be returning from his break).
After a brief catchup, my friend explained that many people have been knocking the doors of the new consulate this week but there is no member of staff around. In fact, the consulate didn't even put a notice up. People were knocking on my friend's door to ask why the consulate was closed, so he decided to put up a notice explaining that the consulate is not open and people should go to the Hockley building instead.
If I didn't bump into a friend, I would have been waiting for an hour or so, thinking they might be running late after Jumma. Many others will have wasted a lot more time than me this week.
Now, the point is why on earth can't they give us a number which they actually answer and why couldn't they have the courtesy to stick up a notice themselves? Or perhaps even have a member of staff at the office to inform people? They clearly told us not to go to the old office and made it clear that we need to go to the new office from 17th August onwards.
There was no communication whatsoever from them, explaining that customers still had to go to the old office despite being told to go to the new one. They have our contact numbers and e-mail addresses in the Nadra database.
So I did go to the Hockley building and was relieved to finally get the passport. I complained to the member of staff who said that the seniors assumed everything could be shifted in a week but it wasn't possible and so on (they have an excuse for everything). But they knew about the move months ago. You do experience problems when moving offices but the fact that you can't be bothered to inform your customers who pay you for your services, is ridiculous.
I have had many other miserable experiences and head aches with the consulate as have many others no doubt. This is just one story which highlights the appalling level of customer service provided. I have heard many other stories which are much more shocking but I thought I'd share this with you all nevertheless.
The introduction of an online booking system is a move in the right direction but it seems that the lack of efficiency and poor quality service will continue overall. I'm glad I didn't have to go to London twice as I did last time but there is still a long way to go if they want to put an end to all this frustration and head ache that one has to put up with when it comes to ID cards and passports. Even when you take all the documents they request, they will ask for some irrelevant document which they won't even look at, just to be awkward.
The world has moved on and organisations are run with efficiency and focus on customer needs, but sadly we are having to put up with the worst level of customer service possible. This is what we get for loving our country and supporting it in every way possible.

Sunday 16 August 2015

Thursday 9 July 2015

Muzaffarabad - Astonishing Views

Photographer: Salman Rashid

Photographer: Zeeshan Naqash

Friday 3 July 2015

Dadyal's MLA in Journalist Cheque Controversy

Accusations have been made against Dadyal’s MLA Afsar Shahid after it was found that he’d given a cheque from public funds to the relative of a local journalist. The recipient of the cheque was to forward the cash to the journalist who is known to report in favour of the MLA. The controversy comes at a time when Dadyal is in a desperate state with many blaming Afsar Shahid, who was elected in 2011, for its lack of progress. Afsar Shahid is also Minister of Zakat for Azad Jammu & Kashmir. The allegation is that the cheque was given to thank the journalist for writing biased articles. However, those who are defending the MLA argue that the accusations are nothing more than political tactics ahead of next year's election.  

It is believed that the cheque came from the Zakat fund as the MLA’s Public Relations Officer (PRO) initially accepted that this was the case when questioned by a group of locals regarding the matter. However, the PRO later changed his stance; denying that the cheque came from the Zakat fund. The people who have made the accusation have uploaded the cheque on social media which clearly has the signature of the MLA. However, supporters of the MLA claim that the cheque is from a separate fund which is allocated to ministers who are then able to distribute it based on their own discretion. For example, such funds can be used to provide financial rewards to sportsmen for excellence.

Nevertheless, it is concerning that an MLA is giving cheques to journalists who are supposed to be reporting fairly rather than giving powerful men a platform to promote themselves. Individuals who are defending the MLA claim that the journalist is from a poor background and is deserving of such financial support. Regardless of which budget the cheque was from, there is clearly a conflict of interest. If the MLA was genuinely helping a ‘journalist in need’, why did he have to write the cheque to a relative of the journalist? Why is it that hundreds of poor people are neglected in AJK but a 'poor journalist' is given a cheque? 

In December 2013, the Express Tribune (article link) reported that hundreds of millions of rupees had gone missing from AJK Zakat funds. Ministers were accused of using such funds for their own medical treatment and to reward their supporters. The latest controversy in Dadyal has led to locals questioning the intent of Afsar Shahid who many believe has failed to live up to expectations. However, it must be noted that he is generally known as a man of good character who is approachable and ready to listen to feedback from his constituents. But we cannot deny that in a country such as Pakistan, Zakat funds rarely get to the poor. The question is where is the money going? 

The poor people of Dadyal continue to struggle in their lives and are deprived of jobs, electricity, adequate medical care and a fair legal system (to name a few of the problems faced). Whilst on the other hand, politicians are living in luxury; attending lavish events and living VIP lifestyles. The issue here is not about one cheque but it’s about the entire system which leads to poor people paying the ultimate price. Recently, in Dadyal, a poor widow died after not being able to cope with the stress and pressures of having to provide for her children after thieves stole the little money that she had. The poor people have little hope and they have no choice but to die suffering – if only Zakat money actually got to them!

Sameer Hussain, Dadyal Online. 

Saturday 27 June 2015

Azad Kashmir without 3G and 4G Services

Technology, AJK (June 2015): Citizens over 150 cities of the country have been enjoying 3G and 4G services but on the other hand people of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan are still waiting for high-speed wireless broadband services to d├ębut in the hilly stations of AJK and G&B, reported. Even after one year of auction in Pakistan, Azad Kashmir is yet to experience 3G and 4G services, and like in various other situations, we don’t have a name to blame for this delay. According to 3G and 4G license terms, operators were allowed to rollout their 3G and 4G networks in whole of Pakistan, except AJK and G&B. Check below section from the licence for your understanding: A License for spectrum awarded in the NGMSA provides exclusive use of the frequencies licensed to that Operator. 

The services permitted are governed by each specific License .The territorial extent of each License is the whole of Pakistan excluding Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK) and Gilgit Baltistan (GB). It merits mentioning here that GSM licenses were also issued on similar patterns where AJK and G&B were excluded from jurisdiction. Telecom operators were offered extension in their GSM licenses — against a flat fee of USD 1 million — in 2005 after massive earthquake in northern areas. Ministry of IT and Telecom, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority and Kashmir Council are three bodies that are going to be responsible for allowing operators to offer 3G and 4G services in AJK and G&B. According to a source at PTA, Kashmir Council is yet to respond to a request where regulator had asked AJK government’s consent for allowing operators to start 3G and 4G services.

 After this consent from Kashmir Council, MoIT will issue a policy directive to PTA for arrangement of 3G and 4G networks in AJK and G&B. It is still unclear if 3G and 4G spectrum in AJK will be auctioned through fresh bidding or already operating players will be granted spectrum as per their respective spectrum block sizes against a flat fixed fee. PTA says that such decisions will be based upon policy directive from MoIT; which means a lot of deliberation is yet to take place to get AJK 3G and 4G services. From the looks it appears that AJK and G&B won’t be able to see 3G and 4G networks for a long time, apparently just because there is not much money involved in the auction and there are other things that can give the government and PTA more visibility than enabling AJK and G&B with 3G and 4G networks.

Thursday 26 February 2015

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