EVERY country keeps a strict watch over foreign nationals entering its territory to ensure that aliens operate within the conditions stipulated by their visas. We would have thought that Pakistan has more reason than most to keep an eye on the movement of foreign nationals. Two pieces of information that emerged last week, however, indicate that not only does there appear to be insufficient oversight where foreigners are concerned, parts of the official machinery are through negligence or simple corruption actually colluding in taking the state for a ride. A recent field survey conducted by the Special Branch of the Punjab Police found that there are 444 foreign students in madressahs across the province, of which 289 do not hold valid documents or visas. Meanwhile, the Senate’s Standing Committee on Interior was informed a week ago that over the past 12 years, the National Database and Registration Authority has detected more than 27,000 cases of foreigners having acquired, by hook or by crook, computerised Nadra identity cards, which can legally be possessed by Pakistanis alone. But when these cases were forwarded to the Intelligence Bureau or the police’s Special Branch, as per procedure, nearly 23,000 were returned as verified. The Nadra director general complained that his organisation is not mandated to challenge the clearance report; while a police representative complained that the Special Branch’s staff strength — which stands at 600 — is too small to carry out proper verification.
This indicates that there are thousands of people in the country illegally, most of them in possession of documents that wrongly show that they are Pakistani nationals. This is a security risk that ought to be taken far more seriously. Sufficient evidence is on record that at least some of those that have taken up arms against the state and society are not Pakistani nationals, and some strands of the violence in this country are underpinned by the influence and operations of non-local groups and individuals. While it is apparently unable to control the spiralling violence in the country, can the state at least crack down on those who are obvious security risks?