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CNIC re-verification

Updated May 27, 2016 10:42am

IT is a monumental folly and possibly sinister in intent too. By his own admission, Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan does not know much, or indeed anything at all, about the CNIC and passport that allegedly belonged to assassinated Afghan Taliban leader Akhtar Mansour and that may have been recovered from the site of the drone attack. But the facts-free interior minister wants to plunge headlong into an administrative exercise of staggering proportions to supposedly re-verify all CNICs issued by Nadra. So critical is the task, according to Chaudhry Nisar, that he has given his lieutenants in the interior ministry just 48 hours to draw up a plan for the unprecedented project. Nothing, it seems, will stand between the interior minister and his quest for a fool-proof registration system. Nothing except for perhaps the facts themselves.

At every level of Chaudhry Nisar’s pronouncements since the Mullah Mansour killing there have been questions. For one, the interior minister has casually admitted to comprehensive corruption in the ranks of Nadra. This after three years of him heading the interior ministry and lecturing the country at every opportunity along the way on the ‘great’ reforms he has implemented during his tenure. So, why is corruption still so endemic in Nadra? The admission of corruption means the proposed purge of fake or unverifiable CNICs will also be flawed. Why should Nadra staff be expected to fix the problem of false identities when it is itself the reason the problem exists in the first place? Finally, how would a re-verification drive, no matter how elaborately conducted, address the problem of the state itself providing false identities to Afghan Taliban leaders? Among the various possibilities of how Mullah Mansour came to be in possession of a Pakistani passport and identity card, it is entirely likely that he was provided these as part of the sanctuary that Afghan Taliban leaders enjoy in Pakistan. Will Nadra realistically have the power to cancel such documents?

Perhaps most troubling in the interior minister’s decision is the scale of disruption it may cause in the country. The re-verification exercise could easily unravel into a farce and little more than a petty extortion project, especially given the power of a CNIC and the relative ease with which individuals can be harassed by Nadra. Misdeeds of Nadra officials could also trigger inter-provincial spats and ethnic tensions if migrant communities in urban centres are pressed by Nadra officials for documents they do not possess or that are only available in their native districts. So, rather than harass or inconvenience peaceful, law-abiding citizens of the country and cause major disruption nationally, here is a better idea for the interior minister: devote some of the interior ministry’s resources to determining how Mullah Omar, Mullah Mansour and, now, Haibatullah Akhunzada came to take up residence in Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2016