Questions arise over data protection of British Pakistanis

LONDON: Pakistan High Commission has opened “expression of interest” to give contract of visa serves for Pakistan to a new company but questions surrounding transparency and protection of data of Pakistani nationals have surfaced strongly.

Questions arise over data protection of British Pakistanis

Questions arise over data protection of British Pakistanis

Pakistan High Commission says that it intends to acquire services of a reputable visa facilitation service provider which should be a legally registered in UK as a company; must have adequate experience and capacity to handle a large service; should get security clearance from Pakistani.

Sources in foreign office have told this correspondent that the “expression of interest” was rushed out in hurry and no consideration was given to the fact that how will Pakistan High Commission deal with a company which is not answerable to Pakistani institutions. The source said that there is a danger that data of Pakistan could fall into the hands of third parties and no legal recourse will be available in that kind of scenario.

The same issue had risen almost six years ago when a company was registered all of a sudden in London and attempts at the government level were made to give contact to that company but the then head of NADRA Dr Tariq Malik intervened and didn’t allow the contract stressing that there was lack of transparency and clear danger existed that data of Pakistanis could fall into the hands of unscrupulous elements. Contract was awarded to Gerry’s Offshore after Pakistan’s security institutions gave clearance to this company because of the fact that this company has base in Pakistan and therefore answerable locally.

Its understood that Pakistan High Commission this week received interest from four companies: Sanital Group Security SGS, TCS, Gerr’s Offshore and Shahzad International Group. This correspondent understands that one of these companies was registered just a few days ahead of the last date of submitting expression of interest specifically for the purpose.

When contacted, a spokesman of Pakistan High Commission said that data protection will be ensured through legally binding contract with the service provider but there was no answer on what will happen if the company happens to be based out of the UK with no links to Pakistan.

When asked what measures will be taken to ensure that there’s no compromise on national security and that the company involved could be held responsible in Pakistan, the spokesman said that the High Commission is fully aware of the security aspect and will ensure that all necessary measures are taken in this regard, including vetting by the concerned authorities.

The spokesman said that after completion of the term of existing contract (Gerry’s) to ensure transparency as per PPRA Rules of the Government of Pakistan, an open Expression of Interest (EOI) was issued. “This has been done to ensure that best services are acquired at the most competitive price in an open and transparent manner. A committee of officers constituted for the purpose will evaluate all the EOIs. The recommendations of the committee will be sent to the competent authorities in Islamabad for final approval. The recommendations would be made, keeping in view all aspects of the services, including data protection and national security. All PPRA Rules are being followed in letter and spirit. The final approval will be made by the competent authorities in Islamabad.”

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