Fake identities

Published Jul 25, 2012 12:10am

A British tabloid’s exposé of the ease of obtaining fake identity documents and UK visas in Pakistan has become a scandal of international proportions because of its link with the upcoming Olympics. But the problem is not a new one. Despite the money and expertise that has been poured into modernising CNICs and passports in recent years, getting hold of fake ones remains shockingly easy. The old days of manual processes for creating these documents are long gone. But even now, when they are computerised and managed through automated processes and electronic databases, the systems — which apparently meet international standards — remain vulnerable to corruption. If you can find an agent with the right links inside Nadra and the passport directorate, procuring another person’s identity is simple enough for anyone willing to pay a price.

And as long as it doesn’t crack down hard enough on people on the inside who are willing to tamper with the process, Nadra, where the CNICs that become the basis for fake passports originate, has limited options. It can continue building more sophisticated checks into the system, but much of the technology used is already world-class, including software that carries out fingerprint and photograph matching. Ultimately, the problem comes down to corrupt individuals being willing to manually override systems and tamper with records for a fee. While there have been multiple raids within Nadra over the years, many of which don’t make it into the media, they have obviously not been effective enough as deterrents. Fixing responsibility is not difficult — the names of operators are entered at every step of the process — so this seems to be a simple enough matter of being more vigilant about detecting irregularities and cracking down more frequently on operators on the inside and agents on the outside.

Despite the implication that the UK visa scam could have been used to smuggle terrorists into the Olympics, at the moment this seems like pure speculation. And the history of Islamist terrorist attacks in the UK indicates that it is largely a home-grown problem there. But for Pakistan itself, this is a national-security matter. Fake Pakistani documents have been found on foreign terrorists, including former Iranian Jundullah head Abdolmalek Rigi and Ramzi Yousef, and been used by members of banned Pakistani outfits to leave the country. So while such forgeries take place in other countries too, in Pakistan’s case they are particularly risky, further damaging its international reputation and allowing domestic militants to get away. World-class systems may be in place, but Nadra and the pass-port directorate need to carry out some significant housecleaning.

More From This Section

Losing power

Despite a year of talk, the facts remain the same. Losses in the power sector are at the same level they were last year.

‘Case closed’

While eliminating extremists’ sanctuaries in Fata is vital, the effort to uproot terrorism cannot fully succeed.

Obama and Obamacare

While the decision of the House of Representatives to sue President Obama may be unprecedented, it is hardly surprising.

Comments (13) (Closed)


HADI SAKEY
Jul 25, 2012 11:44am
Who else can save your country from corrupt practices: the PM, President and all their cronies.
Haroon
Jul 25, 2012 08:56am
Put NADRA under army control and manned by Pak army officer or retired army officer then this menace of corruption can be controlled.
@PaxTolerans
Jul 25, 2012 08:53am
Let's hope that nothing goes wrong at the London Olympics otherwise we already know where the blames going to fall.
afzal iffi
Jul 25, 2012 02:32pm
do you think that there is no corruption in army. let me ask why there is no accountability checks on army budget.
M. Asghar
Jul 25, 2012 09:18am
Fake passports, fake identity cards and fake driving licences are being indulged in everywhere around the world.
ASAD BHATTI
Jul 28, 2012 03:02pm
For the case of Pakistan its not the technology that can end corruption. Its Islamic theology that can end it.
Iftikhar Husain
Jul 25, 2012 11:20am
It comes to one point good governace and strict control on the management of these departments.
Rafiq Baloch
Jul 25, 2012 04:56am
there is a heavy corruption in Nadra, the take money even you are making a legal passport. without paying u can get legal passport.
Cyrus Howell
Jul 25, 2012 07:19am
Criminals are always willing to pay the price. If I have two passports in my own name I can leave the country and prove I never left the country.
Gerry D'Cunha
Jul 25, 2012 09:38am
Who will save our country from corruption? When Mushraf came into power,the people thought, he would be the saviour to give some relief to the people but he got tangled with satanic Chaudries and tanished his image and the country.The satanic Chaudries have now joined the present government, and all can see the result. Visit any passport office in the country and one can experience the corruption going on there. We and our children living in the West are very fortunate not to experience this bribery and corruption and live in peace and harmony. Corruption is not even spared in the Holy month of Ramzan and they expect God to pardon their sins and spare His punishment.
althaf
Jul 25, 2012 05:22pm
Abu Jindal, a suspect in Mumbai terror, was captured in Saudi Arabia traveling on a Pakistani passport. Separately, he was also found to have access to documents that gave him VIP entry to Pakistan. It would appear that officials are also involved in creating fraudulent documents.
mohammad
Jul 25, 2012 11:57pm
YES Put NADRA under army control and manned by Pak army officer. BASICALLY WE NEED TO BE SINCERE TO OUR NATION.
Sure Kanr
Jul 26, 2012 03:39am
Hahahahahahaha! It is because of material and moral corruption in the army that Pakistan has come to this sorry stage...