OVER the last few months there has been a steady drip-drip of stories about the CNICs of a large number of people, mainly Pakhtuns, having been blocked by Nadra. After running from pillar to post to try and resolve the issue, even obtaining an order from the Peshawar High Court in their favour, those affected are now going public. On Thursday, several tribesmen from Mohmand Agency addressed a news conference at the Peshawar Press Club about the long delays in the verification of their blocked CNICs. They also alleged that while bona fide Pakistanis are suffering on this score, Afghans with fake Pakistani identity cards are going about their business by bribing local officials. Indeed, former Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour’s fake Pakistani CNIC only came to light upon his death. The issue of blocked CNICs is no minor hiccup. Even if the number is not in the millions, as earlier perceived, the Senate was recently told that well over 300,000 CNICs have been blocked: of these, 175,000 are awaiting verification by the intelligence agencies and another 52,000 are still to be cleared by Nadra.
This problem has been brewing for some time, but it has now snowballed into a chorus of complaints. And well it might, because the lack of a CNIC in Pakistan presages all manner of difficulties in day-to-day life, from opening or operating a bank account, obtaining a passport, even travelling within the country, conducting land transactions or closing formal business deals, the list is long and varied. The issue is particularly emotive at present because it has become conflated with the perception, not entirely inaccurate, that Pakhtuns are being subjected to ethnic profiling in ongoing security-related operations. One must of course acknowledge that the state has legitimate concerns about foreigners in possession of false documentation, fraudulently obtained, showing them to be Pakistanis — after all, in the same Senate session mentioned above, it was also revealed that nearly 120,000 CNICs have been seized from foreign nationals. Confounding the problem further is that for many tribes, the Durand Line is a border in name only. On Monday, a tribesman from Waziristan told the Senate Standing Committee his father’s CNIC was blocked since 2012 because he belonged to one of the 18 tribes that live on both sides of the border. Nevertheless, Nadra must resolve the matter on a priority basis. Nothing generates ‘anti-state’ feeling more than being disowned by one’s country.
Published in Dawn, March 18th, 2017