ISLAMABAD: While a number of people in the Fourth Schedule of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) alleged that their computerised national identity cards (CNICs) have been blocked, none of the officials concerned acknowledged that such a direction had ever been issued.
Possibly, because there is no law that allows the government to block the CNICs of proclaimed offenders or persons listed on the Fourth Schedule, officials in the National Counter-Terrorism Authority (Nacta), the interior ministry and Nadra declined to offer any direct answer to the allegations.
“We want the writ of law to be implemented, and it has been written to the federal government, all provinces, AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan to ensure that action is taken against persons on the Fourth Schedule in accordance with the law,” Ihsan Ghani, the national coordinator for Nacta, told Dawn.
“We expect that in the second phase all the four provinces, Gilgit-Baltistan, AJK and Islamabad would take action against the proscribed persons, including seizure of properties, cancellation of driving and arms licences etc.”
Say action needs to be taken against persons on the Fourth Schedule in accordance with law
When asked about the suspension of their CNICs, he said this question specifically related to Nadra.
A similar answer was provided by a senior official in the interior ministry who said either Nadra or the minister would be in a position to say under which law had the CNICs been suspended.
On the other hand, none of the officials concerned in Nadra directly responded when asked under which law the CNICs had been suspended.
“The best answer regarding blocking of the CNICs will be from Nacta,” several officials in Nadra told Dawn.
There are reports that the CNICs of over 2,000 people included on the Fourth Schedule have been blocked. They include people belonging to the proscribed Ahle Sunnat wal Jamaat (ASWJ), Maulana Abdul Aziz of Lal Masjid and Sheikh Mohsin Najfi, a Shia cleric involved in philanthropic projects.
“This is a routine problem with the authorities. First they ask us why the name is included in Fourth Schedule, then they say there must be some misunderstanding and finally the answer is, we will get your name out,” said Agha Ishaq, son of Sheikh Mohsin.
He said if the suspension of the CNIC was incorrect, the interior ministry should deny it.
Apparently, the CNICs have been blocked on the advice of Nacta under the ATA. But under section 11E (1A) of the ATA, persons in the Fourth Schedule are not eligible to hold passport, banking or financial services or posses arms licences.
A senior official of the interior ministry said: “There is no law which allows the state to block the national ID card of any Pakistani. The case of Afghan nationals was different as their cards were fake, but it will be difficult to justify a similar action against a citizen of Pakistan.”
Despite the denial by the authorities, many people confirmed that their CNICs had been blocked.
“Two of our leaders in Punjab, who are in the Fourth Schedule, tried to send some amount through the mobile money transfer system but the dealer told them that their ID cards were invalid. This confirms that the CNICs have been blocked,” Allama Ahmed Ludhianvi, the leader of the proscribed ASWJ, told Dawn.
He said his CNIC had also been blocked, adding it was a conspiracy against him and his followers. He said the move to suspend his CNIC was aimed at denying him the right to vote.
“Elections are expected in Jhang as the apex court recently disqualified the PML-N MPA there. Suspending my CNIC is also a human rights violation for my supporters,” he added.
I.A. Rehman, a veteran human rights activist, also opposed the move.
“Depriving any person of his citizenship through an executive order is illegal. However, there is a procedure in the law for taking the rights of a citizen away, and that is through the courts,” he said.
Mr Rehman said blocking the CNIC of any citizen was not mere a punishment. It also deprives the person of his basic rights granted in the Constitution.
An individual placed under the Fourth Schedule is termed a ‘proscribed person’ listed under Section 11EE of the ATA.
There are several restrictions on the individual included in the watch list such as visiting “schools, colleges and other institutions where person under 21 years of age or women are given education or other training or are housed permanently or temporarily.”
The section also allows the federal government to list an individual as a proscribed person in the Fourth Schedule if there are reasonable grounds to believe that they are linked to terrorism, sectarianism etc.
Other no-go areas for the fourth schedulers include theatres, cinemas, fairs, amusement parks, hotels, clubs, restaurants, teashops and other places of public entertainment as well as airports, railway stations, bus stands, television stations and public meetings.
However, the authorities have failed to implement the restrictions, and most of those included in the Fourth Schedule continue moving within and even outside the country.
“This is the main reason we are trying to be strict. Police and the administration have continued to place people in Fourth Schedule, neither implementing the ATA on them nor deleting the names that should not be there,” added Mr Ihsan Ghani of Nacta.
On the other hand, Agha Ishaq claimed that he had filed applications with several authorities for the removal of his father’s name from the Fourth Schedule.
“From the office of the chief commissioner Islamabad to the secretary interior and the local police, all asked us why his name had been placed on the list,” said Mr Ishaq.
Similarly, Maulana Ludhianvi claimed that assurances were given by the Punjab chief minister and some of his cabinet members that his name was not in the Fourth Schedule. “Now after blocking my account, they have suspended my CNIC. At the same time, I am regularly approached by authorities to help maintain peace in Punjab.”
However, Mr Ihsan Ghani said individuals, who feel their names had been placed in the watch list without any justification, can file an appeal with the home department or the chief commissioner Islamabad for a review.
Published in Dawn, October 18th, 2016