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ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan has announced that the gigantic exercise of re-verifying Computerised Nat­io­nal Identity Cards (CNICs) of 25 million families will be completed within the next six months, while giving a two-month amnesty to individuals to surrender the fraudulently issued CNICs.

Speaking at a press conference after chairing a meeting at the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) headquarters on Friday, he said the amnesty would also be given to Nadra employees who would voluntarily report their illegal actions before the expiry of the deadline.

“I guarantee that no action will be taken against those who come forward on their own,” he said.

The decision to re-verify CNICs has been taken days after the disclosure that Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour ostensibly held a fraudulently issued Pakistani CNIC and passport.

The interior minister had given a 48-hour deadline to Nadra on Wednesday to work out a plan for the re-verification of all the CNICs across the country, observing that the episode involving use of Pakistan’s fake identity by the Taliban leader sent the world the message that the country’s identity could be used by anyone, which was against Pakistan’s “strategic, security and national interests”.

“Let’s not send the message ... that the Pakistani ID is easily available to anyone who is willing to pay for it. Being a responsible state, we will ensure that the use of CNIC by any alien is completely eliminated after this exercise,” he remarked.

Undeterred by criticism against the move, the minister said he would continue with the plan meant to protect Pakistan’s security interest. He agreed it would be a mammoth task, but noted that it was not something impossible.

Over 112,000 fake CNICs had been blocked during the past five months, while 90,000 fake CNICs had been blocked last year, he added.

Recalling how he went ahead with SIM re-verification drive despite all the pressures, the minister said: “They said it was an impossible task and would cost a lot. But what was more important than the security of Pakistan?”

Drastic changes in Nadra

The minister said he had approved procedural and organisational changes in Nadra, which would ensure that the process was completed efficiently. He also disclosed that the number of directors general in Nadra had been reduced from 26 to 10.

He said a bipartisan parliamentary committee would be formed to oversee the entire process to ensure its transparency.

A reward scheme was also being launched under which those giving information about the presence of foreigners with Pakistani identity card or passport would be rewarded, the minister said. A helpline was being established for the purpose, besides, another helpline to redress grievances of those who might have genuine grievances during the exercise for re-verification of national identity cards.

The minister said Nadra had been directed not to block the identity card of any citizen until and unless there was 90 per cent evidence of some fraudulent activity surrounding the issuance of such a card.

He said like Nadra, the directorate of immigration and passports was also being declared as essential service for six months to ensure smooth implementation of reform measures. “It is unbearable for any sovereign and democratic nation that its citizenship is being sold,” the minister said, adding that officials involved in the issuance of falsified documents had sold the sanctity and solidarity of the country.

“It is a question of state and I will not refrain from any actions to safeguard its territories. We will carry out re-verification of all identity cards within the time span of six months, while two months will be given to those who have fake identity cards and passports to [surrender them and] get them blocked,” he said.

Procedure

In reply to a question, he said the head of each family would be sent a letter by Nadra asking him to verify members of his family. “It is the question of the state and I will not refrain from any actions to safeguard its territories.”

The minister said that national identity card was issued fraudulently to one Wali Mohammad in 2001, but no action had been taken then. His passport was issued in 2005 and was renewed in 2011 and was due for renewal in October 2016, he said, adding that there could be no excuse that it had been issued by a previous government rather it was a matter of government institution.

He said only 25 passports were blacklisted in 2006, 37 in 2007, 12 in 2008, 25 in 2009 and 361 passports were blacklisted during 2010-12, while 29,000 passports were blacklisted during the past two years.

Similarly, he said, during the past five months 112,000 CNICs had been blocked.

He said the country was faced with an emergency-like situation and adopting such measures was necessary to confirm the identity of nationals.

The interior minister made it clear that legal action would be taken against individuals holding fake CNICs or passports and the employees of Nadra and immigration and passports department found involved in the issuance of fake CNICs and passports. After the expiry of the deadline, he said, the officials found involved in the crime would have to face imprisonment of 14 years. “I have already formulated a legal team, which will file criminal cases against officers guilty of illegally issuing CNICs.”

Meanwhile, the Federal Investigation Agency arrested a Nadra official, Syed Afsar Raza, for his alleged involvement in fraudulent issuance of CNICs to aliens. He allegedly showed aliens as members of Pakistani families through changes in the data.

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2016