Saturday, September 16, 2017

Getting protector clearance in Pakistan

Anybody willing to work outside Pakistan (specially the UAE), will need the Protector guarantee / clearance from the Pakistani government otherwise he / she cannot board a flight on employment visa. How to get it?

My friend Ahmed Muneeb did explain the process is a simple worded blogpost. However, the process has changed somewhat in the subsequent years.

If you are in Lahore, here's how to get the clearance:

  • Documents required
    • You need to create 3 sets of photocopies of the following: 
      • Work visa
      • Your CNIC
      • Your NICOP - if you dont have it, get it made from NADRA. NADRA will convert your existing CNIC into NICOP.
        • Token number for NICOP can be used for getting protectorate clearance
        • You CNIC will be deposited during NICOP process - make sure you make photo copies in advance
      • Passport - You will need your original passport at the office
      • CNIC copy of your nominated next of kin - any blood relation - this can be your father's, mother's, brother's, etc.
    • 1 passport sized photo
    • 1 pen
    • Employment contract (not required but just in case)
    • PKR 6500 + change
  • Go to the Protectorate of immigrant office preferably at 9 AM (They have 7 offices in Pakistan.In Lahore - Model Town 117 G)
  • Enter and give your passport along with 1 set of photocopies (mentioned above) to the guy in the glass counter. He will take your passport and ask you to sit in the briefing room.
  • After 30 minutes you'll be given back your passport, along with some other forms
  • You have to deposit:
    • PKR 2000 for Insurance - this is done at a counter in the same building 
    • PKR 2000 for Worker Welfare Fund (OPF) - at HBL branch in C block Model town
    • PKR 2500 as registration fee - at National Bank in C Block Model Town
  • Once done, go back and submit your passport along with the deposit evidence and the forms provided. 
  • Return around 3pm to collect passport with the protector's stamp

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Getting passport in Pakistan without hassle

We have all experienced the long queues and incessant chatter of agents outside passport offices. This post will help you circumvent most queues and allow you to get a passport with ease. Be sure to follow these guidelines:

1. Payment: You are required to pay a fee for getting your passport printed. You have the option of getting an urgent or normal delivery passport. (Normal passport arrives in whereas Urgent arrives in 4 days).

In addition, you can get a passport for 5 or 10 years validity and have the option of 36, 72 or 100 pages. The payment structure as follows:
 Payment in Rs.
Normal (10 days delivery)
Urgent (4 days delivery)
Pages / Validity
5 YEAR
10 YEAR
5 YEAR
10 YEAR
36 pages
3,000
5,400
5,000
9,000
72 pages
5,500
9,900
9,000
16,200
100 pages
6,000
10,800
12,000
21,600

Price correct as of September 2015
Decide on what you need and deposit this amount in National Bank. There is an NBP booth at Lahore Garden Town Passport office, but I recommend depositing this fee a day before going to the passport office.

You will need to print and fill this slip: https://www.nbp.com.pk/Forms-Applications/PassportChallanForm.pdf

And here are the branches of NBP that accept this payment: http://www.dgip.gov.pk/Files/Banks.aspx

Remember, you SHOULD deposit this fee a DAY before going to the office.

2. Documents needed:

For a citizen's passport you need:
A. Your original CNIC and 2 copies of your CNIC (for children less than 18, Form B and need a guardian to accompany them)
B. Your previous passport and 1 copy of it  (if available)
C. Challan copy showing you have paid the passport fee

Get this done before going to the passport office.

3. Which office:

Here's a list of passport offices in Pakistan: http://www.dgip.gov.pk/files/Offices.aspx


Friday, September 16, 2016

Number plates in Lahore



In late 2006, the Punjab Govt of Mr. Pervaiz Elahi and it's Excise and Taxation department introduced new number plates for motor vehicles. The rationale  behind this intervention was to put computer readable number plates on all vehicles in order to have better vigilance through CCTV cameras.

The system functioned smoothly before the 2011 debacle when the contractor (3M) providing these plates was "blacklisted", which put a halt on computerized number plates being issued to commuters. For the period between 2011 and 2013, the system remained suspended and Excise department was only too happy to provide the vehicle registration number so buyers of new vehicles could get a counterfeit number plate made from street-side vendors.

In 2014, another department of the Government decided that it was time to change number plates of Punjab. Various newspapers were fed stories of "special US-like" number plates to be rolled out. Fortunately, nothing materialized and the E&T department has stuck with its original design.

Why I'm writing about this today is because the E&T department now wants only standardized number plates in Punjab. Older and counterfeit number plates have no room in Punjab, according to the department. Ironically, the department itself led to a boom in the fake plate industry when it was unable to provide computerized number plates between 2011 and 2013.

There are two parts to this story: the sad one and the good one. The sad part is that while we never got a computerized number plate (during 2011 and 2013), we had already paid for it when getting the registration number. The good part is that we can now get the authenticated plates from E&T dept (Farid Kot House), free of charge*. Why I put an asterisk next to free of charge is because while you don't pay for the plates in monetary terms, it was a hassle just to get hands on them.

When I entered the office to get these plates in 2016 (having paid for it in 2013), I was guided by an efficient yet geriatric receptionist towards the back office. Although there was a board listing which offices were found on what floor, it was impossible to make any sense of it. I wandered a bit before asking a person sitting outside an office (possibly a Naib Qasib), about where I should go for number plates. The person informed me that the same could be received from the upper floor. When I climbed the stairs, there was no guidance here as well so I had to ask another gentleman who asked me to move one floor higher. Having reached the top floor, I was thankful that I couldn't be asked to go higher, but the person dealing with number plates, after seeing my registration year asked me to go to the first floor.

After having no luck on the first floor, I approached the office of "director", who asked me to meet a Mr. Adeel Amjad on this very floor. After reaching Mr. Amjad's office, where he wasn't present, I was asked to meet Mr. Aslam Nadir. Mr. Nadir was busy dealing with number plates and was a bit agitated at Mr. Amjad's staff for having referred me towards him. In order to end the ordeal, I asked Mr. Nadir what my next steps should be? He asked me to see a Mr. Imran in the basement.

After consulting a few more Naib Qasids, I was able to locate Mr. Imran, sitting in a hidden office lined with number plates. Mr. Imran kept entering new number plates into his record register. After 5 minutes, he was able to find time to ask me my problem. I handed my registration to him, with which he disappeared into the backroom. During this time I kept thinking whether or not my number plates would be here, since there could be millions of other places where it could be. Interestingly, Mr. Imran returned with my set of plates and handed them to me. It was surprising that he found 3-year old plates in less than two minutes although the mess in the backroom made it seem impossible. So after 30 minutes of exercise ascending and descending stairs, I had what I came to get.

The E&T department needs to do the following:

  • Make sure it is easier to get number plates. TCS delivery is available but the system doesnt seem to work
  • Ensure that the crackdown continues. Even today we see outrageous number plate designs
  • Address the basic issues - Tests for driver license & vehicle fitness
  • Get rid of certain departments trying to get credit for E&T activities (explained later)
Certain interventions have been proposed by certain "units" in the Punjab Government in "collaboration with the E&T department" which can be at best described as frivolous. DVRS, VVTP culture and Excise 2.0 Vanity plates are two examples of the branding used. Although such interventions are not harmful per se, they serve more as initiatives to be reported in the press rather than initiatives that would lead to any real change. 

The same "units" claim to have changed the motor vehicle tax payment system. However, as I've described, the masses have to go through the same ordeal to get their number plates. The same applies for registering a new vehicle, transferring ownership, paying yearly token taxes.

Putting a sticker on the car doesn't mollify the pain suffered to get that sticker in the first place. Vanity plates may be ubiquitous in the US, but so are proper driver license and vehicle fitness tests, something the "units" and Punjab Govt have claimed to address but only in newspapers, not in reality.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Exam on Eid day!

After reading the title, I'm sure you would have thought I'm a whiny brat narrating some anecdote from my time abroad which I spent on my father's money. Let me disabuse you of that notion. This story took place in Lahore, Pakistan in October 2006.

My school decided that it was best to appear for our Islamiat and Pak Studies O Level exams in October of 2006 rather than in June the next year. This led to a hasty stretch to complete syllabus to both courses, neither of which was complete.

But the bigger problem was that the exams fell during the Holy Month of Ramazan. With our backs against the wall, we somehow survived the Pak Studies exam. What awaited us was unheard of. The Eid moon was not sighted, which meant there would be 30 'rozas', aligning our Islamiat Paper 1 with the Eid day! To top it off, the paper was to start at 8 am.

I remember missing Eid prayers, something I hadn't done before or since that fateful day in October. My cousins were celebrating while I went for my exam. As if this wasn't enough, the second part of the exam was the next day.

When I remember that Eid, I do not feel sad because of missing out on the fun but because there was no resistance to that schedule before or after the exam session. What hurt me most was my friends' obsequence. I know you can't change the schedule but at least shoot an email to the British Council condeming their lack of sensitivity to our religious festivities. Just imagine these exams being held on Christmas eve. Impossible!

Why I write this now is for the future candidates who wish to take these exams in the years to come. As Ramazan moves into May, the chances of Eid falling on an exam day will rise. Schools and candidates should request the British council to at least schedule no exams on the 2-3 days that Eid could fall on. It isn't too much to ask given the amount of revenues the British Council derives from O and A level exams conducted in Pakistan.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Tax return filing made easy

The Federal Board Revenue (FBR) has made your life easy by automating the process for getting an NTN number and filing income tax returns.

In order to get an NTN, follow these steps:
1) Visit FBR's new registration website (Register here)
2) Fill out your CNIC, Name and the image characters
3) This will take you to a form, where you have to fill your details
4) Submit the form

Once you have submitted your form, in a week or so you will be informed that your registration has been successful and that you can take your registration certificate from the given offices. You can either go to that office OR you can just visit FBR's new registration website again (given above). Enter the same details you entered earlier, the system will inform you that the displayed NTN number has already been assigned to you. Save this number for your record.

Once you have your NTN number, it is time to start filing returns. Follow these steps:
1) Go to FBR's website for e-enrollment. (This is the link)
2) Select your Taxpayer type (Individual, AOP, Business)
3) Enter your new NTN, CNIC and image characters
4) You will be asked to enter some information. After entering, submit the form.
5) A message will acknowledge your application and inform you that an email has been sent to your provided address
6) Wait for the email. When it arrives, click the acknowledge link, enter your activation code and print the form
7) You will shortly receive your username and password for filing
8) Also, post the printed form to the address specified in the email

Friday, November 14, 2014

Evolution of Mortein mosquito repellant machines

Mortein started with this capped hut design for their mosquito repellent machines in 2005. 


This was later replaced by this red and white ball design which was aesthetically pleasing to the eyes.
 The third and latest design is this red and grey ball design with the addition of of a vaporizer control which allows users to reduce the emission of repellent liquid according to their requirements.
-------
Update 8 July '16
Mortein has also changed the liquid bottle that comes with the vaporizer (shown below).
New
Old

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Did we learn anything from 8 October, 2005?

We all remember October 8, 2005. Nine years ago, a massive earthquake measuring .... On the richter scale razed buildings in north Pakistan, causing .... Casualties. A natural disaster of this magnitude could not be predicted. But could the number of casulaties be lowered if God forbid such a calamity was to hit Pakistan again?
After the earthquake there was talk during circuitous transmissions on TV of preventive measures. Have we done enough during the last nine years?
I distinctly remember drills being conducted in my school (among other places) in the aftermath of the earthquake. But as time passed such exercises were not repeated.
There was also talk of building design inspection and approval of buildings, but even at that time I was skeptical of this practice bring adopted, let alone it bring implemented in letter and spirit in the long run.
So nine years after disaster struck, we are as unprepared as we were in 2005.