ISLAMABAD: The government has set itself an ambitious target of revalidating the family trees of around 25 million households in two months, but progress on this front has been slow, due to a lack of connectivity between the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) and cellular companies.

According to Nadra sources, around 0.7 million text messages have been received at the 8008 short code ever since the re-verification drive was launched on July 1. However, only 400,000 citizens have received a positive reply so far.

Several citizens, upon sending their particulars to the given short code, have received the response: “Presently Nadra does not have data on your mobile number and cannot entertain your request at this time, Please try again later.”

Explaining the discrepancy, a Nadra official told Dawn that only text messages from numbers that have been registered with the database by the CNIC holders themselves were receiving positive replies.

This has led to widespread confusion among those whose numbers are not available on Nadra’s records. Many such users Dawn spoke to feared that their CNICs or mobile numbers may end up being blocked due to the inefficiency of government departments.

One such user, who is also the head of his family, told Dawn that his mobile number was also biometrically registered in his name. “If there is a problem with the mobile number, then how has it been working for more than a year now,” asked Syed Ali, adding: “I fear they might cancel my ID card.”

Only citizens whose cellphone numbers are registered with Nadra receiving positive responses from 8008

Biometric verification of mobile SIMs was completed by mobile network operators in May 2015, leaving 114 million active mobile connections in the country.

The latest data, issued by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), shows that there are 133 million mobile connections in the country, all of whom are biometrically linked to the CNIC of the purchaser.

But Nadra officials say that their greatest concern was the protection of classified data. A spokesperson for the authority told Dawn they were working on a system to ensure that classified data of CNIC holders cannot be leaked or mishandled.

“Under the existing system, there are fears that anybody could forward the CNIC number of any citizen to 8008 – but it would be unfair and illegal if confidential details are forwarded to an unauthorised person,” said Nadra spokesperson Mohammad Faiq.

On the other hand, mobile companies say it is the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) that is resisting moves to allow Nadra to access their databases.

“PTA does not want the details of mobile numbers to be given to any unauthorised hand, which includes government departments,” PTA spokesperson Khurram Mehran told Dawn.

In May this year, the government decided to re-verify the family tree information of around 25 million families after the disclosure that slain Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour, who was killed on May 22 in a drone attack in Balochistan, was a registered Pakistani national under the name of Wali Muhammad.

“Initial inquiries revealed that Nadra officials made fake entries in enlisted Pakistani families,” a Nadra official told Dawn.

Interior Minister Chaudhary Nisar Ali khan even admitted that Nadra’s database had been intruded and that a large number of non-Pakistani citizens had obtained CNICs. The re-verification exercise was ordered so that no alien would be able to use Pakistani identification and that CNICs already issued to non citizens were cancelled.

“There are [unreliable] people working in government departments and such data could be misused by unscrupulous individuals without the knowledge of their superiors,” a PTA official said.

However, he said a mechanism for coordination between Nadra and cellular companies had been developed and was likely to be put in place from next week.

“Under the new system, Nadra will forward the mobile number of every sender to all five mobile networks to ensure that both the mobile number and the CNIC belong to the same person,” the official explained.

Published in Dawn, July 18th, 2016



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