LAHORE: About 100,000 Pakistanis have lost their ‘nationality’ as the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) has either blocked their computerised national identity cards (CNICs) or refused to renew them because their status was “suspect (alien)”.
The Nadra has intensified its exercise to identify ‘aliens’ among the CNIC holders.
“The Nadra has meticulously been scrutinising the ‘suspect CNICs’ and so far around 100,000 such CNICs have been blocked. The holders of the blocked CNICs are not Pakistanis, most of them being Afghans,” Nadra spokesman Faik Ali Chachar told Dawn.
“As the Nadra has a ‘foolproof’ system, it is blocking dubious CNICs,” he said.
However, neither Mr Chachar nor Nadra Chairman Usman Mobin could explain as to how did the ‘non-Pakistanis’ manage to get the CNICs in the first place.
Nadra campaign flawed, say affected people
A source in the authority said: “The Nadra cannot issue or renew the CNICs to those who have no history of being Pakistanis. Without having a record with Nadra (like that of a family tree) how can the authority issue CNICs to aliens?”
On the directives of interior ministry a Joint Verification Committee has recently been constituted in each province to scrutinise doubtful cases of CNICs. “The committee will scrutinise and verify doubtful CNIC cases so that no alien or illegal migrant could enjoy undue privileges by obtaining Pakistan’s identity card through fake documentation,” he said.
Meanwhile, a good number of people who lost their ‘Pakistani nationality’ told Dawn they had been wondering as to how the Nadra could block their CNICs after seeing the proof of their being Pakistanis.
“My CNIC (37202-4236548) which was to expire on May 31, 2017, has been blocked. The Nadra office has told me that I am not a Pakistani. Therefore, it has blocked my card.
“I have submitted my birth certificate and an affidavit that my family has been living in Punjab since 1718, along with copies of some of my relatives’ cards, but the Nadra refused to accept any of them,” Din Muhammad, a resident of Choa Saidan Shah, Chakwal district, told Dawn.
Din Muhammad has 12 children and those attaining the age of 18 years are also being denied CNICs on this ground.
Similarly, the CNICs of Muhammad Abdullah (37202-3383403-7), Taj Bibi (37202-2250924-5) and Abdusatar (37202-2719212-3), otherwise valid till 2017, 2015 and 2016 respectively, have been cancelled.
Dawn checked the status of their CNICs with Nadra which said: “These CNIC holders are not Pakistanis, they are non-national.”
Masoom Shah of Chakwal (37202-5042733-1) has been marked ‘suspect’ by Nadra.
Mr Shah said he presented proof of his family’s roots in Jhang district of Punjab to the Nadra officials but they simply did not care. “Nobody in Nadra tells us why they have blocked our CNICs. If we were not Pakistanis why did Nadra issue the NICs and subsequently the CNICs? It did so only because we were Pakistanis,” he said.
The Nadra officials believe that he and his family members are Afghans, according to Mr Shah. All the affected persons complain that they cannot sell or buy any property or do business without a valid CNIC. They say their children cannot take matriculation or other exams without CNICs. Most of them belong to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.
Mehmood Khan Achakzai, the chairman of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, has vowed to take up the issue with the authorities. He is critical of the interior ministry’s step to block the CNICs of Pakhtuns by describing them as “Afghan refugees”.
“Under the guise of the ‘war on terror’ how can the state justify arresting individuals whose forefathers migrated to Pakistan from Afghanistan? Police are coercing the Pakhtun living for decades in areas where their forefathers settled after partition of the subcontinent to extort money by denying them their right to citizenship through blocking their CNICs. We have received phone calls of Pakhtuns living in Sialkot, Attock, Jhang and even Hyderabad who are complaining of police harassment,” Mr Achakzai told Dawn.
“I know the families who have been living here since the 1900s and whose CNICs have been blocked by Nadra. Our party’s stance is not to challenge the state to grant citizenship to the Afghan refugees. But we will stand up for the rights of the Pakhtun if they are discriminated against on the basis of their Afghan lineage.
“Do you know that half the youths in Afghanistan today were born, brought up and educated in Pakistan?” he said, adding that the Afghan refugees did not arrive here of their own free will.
“In addition to the general requirements for CNICs’ renewal, the Pakhtun settled in Pakistan well before partition are required to provide details of their forefathers, their nikahnama and proof of business activities. This is nothing short of discrimination and will breed animosity amongst the Pakhtun,” Mr Achakzai said.
He added that his party would launch a drive against the questionable steps taken by the Nadra.
Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2015