THERE was recently a news item stating that there were nine million CNICs that had expired, and instructions had been given to Nadra to renew them on a priority basis. I have just returned from Saudi Arabia where I had been employed since 1978.
The following is an account of what I and my family faced at the Nadra office at Awami Markaz-II, Sharea Faisal, Karachi.
Our original CNICs were issued in 2004 but as we lived in Saudi Arabia, they lay dumped in some bag because the cards had no utility. On my return to Pakistan, I noticed a clerical discrepancy in my wife’s CNIC where the husband’s name is shown different from the head of the family, although the CNIC family number in both cards is the same. When I pointed this discrepancy (which was through no fault of mine), I was told to dish out an amount of Rs1,000 and to get my wife into the queue for having all her ten fingers printed like convicted felons are made to do in America.
Later, she was handed out a form and asked to get it certified by a grade 17 gazetted officer, confirming her particulars. No sooner had we gotten out of the office, we were accosted by a tout who asked for a fee of Rs400 to get the endorsement done right there. When I asked what the amount was for, he said that Rs300 was to pay an official in the department, while Rs100 was for himself.
The question is why we continue with colonial practices that have been eliminated all over the world. Just go around our various Nadra and passport offices and one will find hundreds of illiterate and poor citizens being fleeced by petty officials and middlemen for getting their identities verified by some government officers.
In the majority of cases, these government officers have not even seen the faces of the persons whose cases they are certifying as being genuine on the recommendation of ‘expeditors’.
Despite paying an amount of Rs1,000 towards the ‘fast track’ service, my wife’s CNIC receipt token, dated mid-June 2011, still remains pending as do thousands of other cases with no solution in sight.
The number of occasions that I have visited the Nadra office to make inquiries about my wife’s CNIC, has already cost me another Rs1,000 towards petrol charges and parking fees of Rs30 for even a few minutes of parking each time. Now my wife can neither renew her passport nor can she open a bank account because her original error-filled CNIC was immediately taken away by Nadra to hide their own gross inefficiency. Had I noticed the discrepancy in Saudi Arabia, I could have got it rectified within three days at the most. After 35 years of remitting much-needed foreign exchange to Pakistan, where anti-state elements from other countries can lead protected lives, my wife, who was born in Lahore, is being asked to prove if she really is a Pakistani.
ZAHID ISLAM Karachi