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Petition to Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan on behalf of the divided families of the two countries

21 June 2010

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(Posted below is a petition drafted by a woman from Srinagar woman married to a Pakistani living in Islamabad. Please spread this petition and send endorsements to so that the petition can presented to it the Home Ministers or Foreign Minister’s at their upcoming meetings.)

The Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan

Mr. Manmohan Singh and Mr Yusuf Raza Gilani

Sirs,

We, the undersigned, are sending this petition to you on behalf of the divided families of the two countries.

Here are some facts about our mutual visa regimes that leave much to be desired:

It takes too much time.

  • For a Pakistani, a normal visa to any city in India takes three to four weeks to process. But visas for the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir take a year to process. The clearance has to come from J&K state police and IB department in Srinagar. Then it goes to Delhi IB and to the Kashmir desk (North block, New Delhi). It is forwarded to Ministry of Home Affairs, (MHA) Foreigners section. And then it is conveyed to Indian High Commission in Pakistan. It is almost the same for Indians applying for Pakistan. Please do something to reduce this excruciating time frame.

There is too much paperwork involved in applying for a visa.

  • We need an affidavit, valid only for forty five days, which has to be obtained from the city to be visited.
  • We need any two current bills.
  • An English translation of the NADRA ID card and
  • Finally, a no objection from the organisation you are working for or if self employed then your business registration letter.

We are positive something can be done to reduce the paperwork and make things easier for people. Some points are listed below.

  • Infants and children under thirteen should be exempted from police reporting.
  • There should be Indian and Pakistani consulates in other cities besides Delhi and Islamabad only.
  • The visa fees are only about fifteen rupees on both sides. But getting to the respective embassies costs many times more. If one piece of paper is incorrect or missing, applicants have to come again and again, which is particularly disheartening for the poor and unlettered.
  • India has introduced a condition that restricts foreigners from returning to India for sixty days unless they visit a neighbouring country and have a valid ticket back to India. There is no concept of re-entry to India otherwise.
  • In both countries, visa extensions and long term visas are very difficult to obtain. This makes life particularly difficult for married women with families across the border.
  • If a mother has Indian or Pakistani nationality, her children should be given visas to her home country without any obstacles no matter what their nationality.
  • Visas of Pakistani and Indian nationals married to each other should be made easier. The requirement of getting names of spouses added to the respective passports is another tough task.
  • Pakistani nationals living in other countries, even if they have citizenship of another country and are living abroad, find it very difficult to obtain visas for India, and vice versa.
  • Exit and entry points are fixed. These are changed with great difficulty. If the places to be added or visited not in the order that is on the visa, that is another ordeal. Please make travel more flexible as upheavals of nature can strike any time any place.
  • Functioning of embassies and consulates should be like well oiled machines which are regularly updated. Clerical errors which cause undue problems to the applicant should be rechecked and avoided. There should be a 24-hour helpline to give information as required.

These are some totally avoidable obstacles faced by the people who live on the opposite sides of the fence. We request the leaders and those at the helm of affairs to step into our shoes and feel the pain of the divide. Only by empathising can these shortfalls be corrected.

In anticipation of redress for these easily rectifiable problems, we thank you.

(SIGNED/Endorsed)