ISLAMABAD .Interior Minister Ch. Nisar Ali Khan addressing press conference at NADRA Headquarters. APP

ISLAMABAD, : Minister for Interior Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Thursday launched a new passport renewal service providing an opportunity to overseas Pakistanis to apply for passport online.

Speaking at a news conference here at NADRA eadquarters, the minister said in the first phase, the online passport service would be for Overseas Pakistanis and after six months it would also be available inside Pakistan.

He said in a year or two the service would be expanded across Pakistan.

He appreciated the work done by Passport Office and NADRA for introducing the online service and taking other measures like complaint resolution service, mega centres, SMS service and home delivery to facilitate citizens applying for passport and identity cards.

He said he continued to receive complaints of extortion and
rush at NADRA offices and further steps would be taken to provide more facilities to people.

Chaudhry Nisar said he talked to Finance Minister and got his
approval for finances for start of e passport project.

In the initial phase which would start from June 2017 with a
cost of Rs 600 to 700 million, e passports would be issued to officials and diplomats.

Then within two years, the e passports would be issued across Pakistan.

He said he wanted that passports should be issued for a period of 10 years to reduce burden on Passport Office and public.

This step would minimize misuse of Pakistani passport, which
would get more recognition in the world.

He said the government set up 72 more passport offices, adding the government planned to establish passport office in every district.

The minister said services at NADRA offices would be improved so that people could easily get identity cards.

To a question about the news published by Dawn journalist
Cyril Almeida, he said he would meet representatives of All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) and Council of Pakistan Newspapers Editors (CPNE) on Friday to discuss the issue.

He said after the news came, the matter should have ended,
however, then Cyril Almeida tweeted: “I stand by every word written.”

He said Cyril himself stated that when he checked with sources they denied the story but the news was still published by Dawn.

He said inquiry into the story would be completed in four to
five days. “At present Cyril is a free man and there will be no pressure on him.”

However, during the inquiry the journalist would be asked
about the evidence available to the government about the story.

He said the narrative given in the story was of the enemies as one can see from the coverage of Indian electronic media and others like Hindustan Times, The Times of India and The Hindu. “The national security was compromised because of the story.”

He said Cyril Almeida was put on the Exit Control List (ECL)
as he was booked to catch a flight for abroad, without taking part in the inquiry.

If Cyril had gone abroad then the government would have been blamed that it let him go, he added.

Nisar said two or three persons who were part of the matter would also be not allowed to go abroad for the purposes of inquiry.

If Cyril had not booked a flight for abroad, his name would
not have been put on the Exit Control List.

The minister said the courts in the United States had ruled that if a national security matter was involved, then media had to reveal the source.

However, he said media considered that its sources should be protected, but at least the government could verify facts of a news story.

He said he respected freedom of the media and he would be the last person to undermine it.

The minister said that Dawn nnewspaper repeatedly plainly
refused to publish a clarification issued by the government.

He said the issue of Dawn story was discussed in a high level
security meeting, and its proceedings were recorded in writing.

When asked about an unknown military source that stated that army did not have anything to do with putting Cyril’s name on ECL, he said that source should come forward, then he will respond on the issue.

To another question, he said Pakistan and Britain had
extensive relations which should not reach a dead end because of a single issue.

He said people of Pakistan were closely looking at the
situation regarding the cases against Altaf Hussain and how the British law acted.

He said Altaf Hussain was facing cases of murder, money
laundering and incitement to violence.

Chaudhry Nisar said the police and intelligence agencies were
probing the matter of discovery of weapons from a house in Karachi.

He said the list of weapons was also found in the documents
recovered from the house of Altaf Hussain by Metropolitan Police in London.

This list had some connection with the weapons found in
Karachi, he added.