ISLAMABAD: The National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) claimed before the Supreme Court on Tuesday that the price of the new chip-based smart identification card was comparatively high due to its distinctive features.

The court had issued an order to submit a report in connection with a suo motu notice taken by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar that the fee charged for the issuance of the National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis (Nicop) and the cancellation of the Pakistan Origin Card (POC) was exorbitant.

A three-judge bench, headed by the chief justice, will take up the matter on Wednesday on a request by retired Col Mohammad Saghir highlighting that previously Nadra was charging $100 to generate a POC but recently there had been a massive increase in the fee and it had reached Rs22,000, while the POC cancellation fee was Rs31,500.

In its reply, Nadra asserted that the price of the new chip-based national identity card had been raised gradually over 16 years in accordance with the visa policy on a reciprocal basis. It said that the issuance of POC/Nicop was cheaper than obtaining visa for those overseas Pakistanis who had surrendered their Pakistani nationality or had dual nationality.

Moreover, it said, the chip-based NIC was equipped with 36 security features (overt and covert) intended to preserve a citizen’s identity more efficiently by preventing all types of forgery.

The card was made of durable poly-carbonated material, the report said, adding that the chip also carried biometrics of the holder with matched the card.

Nadra stated that the card’s expiry period was 10 years which gave an added three years’ visa-free entry to the holder to Pakistan. Previously, the cards expired after seven years.

The report said that Nadra had also launched an online application website in 2015 from where applicants could apply from their homes instead of visiting the embassies or Nadra centres. Moreover, it said, the processing time for a fresh application was approximately 22 minutes with a delivery time of the card of a week to 10 working days.

It said that over 230,000 applicants had successfully used Nadra’s online application service to date, adding that a team of over 200 staff was working round the clock to facilitate them.

Published in Dawn, March 1st, 2017