ALMOST 3.8 million ‘registered’ Afghan refugees have returned home during the past 11 years, and yet Pakistan is host to over 1.6 million Afghans - “the largest and most protracted refugee population in the world”, according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

Add the ‘unregistered’ mass of Afghans and the problem of aliens becomes enormous for the country facing an economic meltdown.

Last week, a National Aliens Registration Authority (Nara) ad in the newspapers invited foreign nationals living illegally in Pakistan to register themselves with it and acquire a legal status to stay and work and be free of all the troubles.

But how many illegal aliens would fall for the inducement when they have offers from the underworld to arrange them the nationality of Pakistan anytime?

Early in February the Crime Investigation Agency (CIA) of Islamabad busted a second gang in three months, caught securing Pakistan’s all-important Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC) for Afghan nationals, in connivance with the workers of the issuing authority, the National Database Registration Authority (Nadra).

On a tip off, the CIA arrested the Afghan applicant Wazir Khan at Faizabad with forged documents. But his facilitator suspiciously escaped.

Search of the Afghan, a native of Kunduz province of Afghanistan, yielded a disability certificate No 5696/2012-NCRDP issued on October 25, 2012 “signed” by Deputy Director National Council for the Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons Islamabad and Form-B No 102483704 issued on August 26, 2012, “signed” by the secretary of a Rawalpindi union council, in the name of Akram Nadeem, son of Mohammad Nadeem, with a photo copy of CNIC of Mohammad Nadeem and a tracking No. 102371025524.

Wazir Khan told interrogators that he wanted Pakistani CNIC and machine readable passport and approached one Farooq at his office in a hotel in Shoba Bazaar, Peshawar. He demanded Rs150,000 for arranging the documents and the deal was struck at Rs100,000.

The next day Farooq took him to three persons in Dhoke Darzian, Rawalpindi, including Zia Anar. Farooq took the money and gave some of it to the three.

Next morning the shadow-play began. The Afghan was taken to Nadra office in Kahuta Rawalpindi with the instruction to pose himself as dumb and deaf while Zia spoke on his behalf in the office for completion of the process.

Zia then brought him to Faizabad for the attestation of the forms where he sensed CIA men were waiting for them and fled, leaving the Afghan to be caught.

However, Zia too was arrested next day on February 8.

According to a police officer close to the investigation, Zia identified Zakir, working on a Nadra mobile van, and Nadeem at Nadra’s G-10 office, as his accomplices and both were arrested a week later.

They pointed to three other Nadra officials as partners in the game. Police sought their custody but the Nadra authorities were yet to respond to the request, the police source said.

Meanwhile, Farooq and another person were arrested in Peshawar, and official documents and stamps recovered from them. Their interrogation led to others in Nadra and passport offices networking in providing Afghans Pakistani identities for the past two years, charging from Rs100,000 to Rs200,000 for one document.

Another police source said that police and Nadra officials agreed to keep the investigations secret to mutual benefit, shielding the suspect officers and quietly transferring them to other posts.

A CIA sting operation had busted a similar criminal gang last November. Based in Darra Adamkhel, the gang had been caught forging ‘highly secured’ computerised national identity cards, machine-readable passports and computerised arms and driving licences for over a year.

“It imported raw material for its forgeries, including lamination sheets, holographic features, cards and papers,” a source said.

Arrest of one of its operatives from Bari Imam area on November 10 led the CIA to the gang. He named Badhar Khan in Darra as the kingpin of the operation and the man admitted that he had been in the business for one year.

“We have operatives in all major cities and charged Rs20,000 for arm licence, Rs15,000 for passport, Rs10,000 for CNIC and Rs5,000 for driving licence, keeping 15-20 per cent as my share,” he told the interrogators, proudly claiming to have forged 500 CNICs, machine readable passports, computerised arms and drivers licences.

“There were separate wings in the gang to process the orders secured by the operatives and to send the finished products from Darra Adamkhel. The operatives passed on information via phone and photos via mail or the email,” the police source claimed.

Nadra spokesperson Naz Shoeb said Nadra Vigilance Department, the Crime Investigation Agency and police successfully carried out the operation and arrested two employees allegedly involved in the acts of commission and omission. We are identifying our own culprits and individuals whose illegal acts are bringing bad name to the credibility and integrity of the whole organisation.”

About the arrests of Nadra employees in Peshawar, she said: “The arrest of four employees by the Federal Investigation Agency there last Tuesday was a post-inquiry development, conducted by Nadra’s Vigilance Department in 2009 against them on the charges of being involved in preparing fake CNICs for aliens. After completion of the inquiry the FIA has now made arrests and brought them to book.”“Chairman Nadra Tariq Malik reiterates the organisation’s policy of zero tolerance for corruption. He had ordered crackdown on forgery, violation of SoPs (standard operation procedures) and identity theft in October 2011. Nadra Vigilance Department and investigation agencies are conducting joint sting operations to lure Nadra employees for wrong processing of cards and violation of SoPs.

“This strategy is paying its dividends to weed out black-sheep within Nadra, if any. Nadra has taken severe action against these culprits resulting in termination of services with major penalty and demotions as minor,” said the spokesperson.

However, her version did not address the issue of three other officials wanted by CIA for interrogation in connection with their alleged illegal activities, nor the alleged secret understanding police and Nadra officials to keep things quiet.

Despite repeated phone calls and text messages, Islamabad Inspector General of Police Bani Amin Khan was not available for his comments on the alleged involvement of some of his officers in the forged documents scam.

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