The Supreme Court said on Thursday that Pakistanis who are living abroad should be given monetary concessions by the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) in the issuance of identity cards.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Mian Saqib Nisar was hearing a suo motu case initiated after a non-resident Pakistani complained that the issuance fee for a Pakistan Origin Card (POC) had been increased to Rs22,000, and the cancellation fee to Rs31,500.
Nadra had on Thursday submitted a report sought in connection with the fee hike.
The Nadra chairman explained that overseas Pakistanis are issued two types of cards.
The National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis (Nicop) is for people who live in foreign countries for employment purposes but have kept their Pakistani nationality, Yusuf said. These Pakistanis who want to visit the country need not apply for a visa if they possess a Nicop.
The POC is for people living in foreign countries who have given up their Pakistani nationality or for foreigners who have blood relatives who are or were Pakistani nationals.
At this, Justice Ijazul Hassan asked why there was a need for a Pakistan Origin Card in the presence of the identity card and passport.
The Nadra chairman responded that in many countries the passport, not the identity card, is checked for identification purposes. The POC has passport-like features which can be used when one does not have their passport with them.
The court asked Nadra why Pakistanis who live abroad and send back foreign exchange are charged a hefty amount for the POC while Pakistanis who live in the country are charged a negligible amount for their identity cards.
"The services of non-resident Pakistanis are commendable," the CJP remarked, adding that Pakistanis living in foreign countries should be given special considerations.
He reminded Nadra chairman Usman Yusuf that Nadra was a non-profit institution, saying: "It is the right of every Pakistani to be issued an identity card."
Justice Nisar further asked Yusuf if the children who are born in foreign countries to parents who have been living in those countries for a long time will be considered Pakistani citizens.
The Nadra chairman said the parents of such children must get them registered in a Pakistan consulate in the concerned country.
The court asked Nadra to submit details of its staff and centres in 26 foreign countries. The hearing was adjourned till further notice.
The chief justice had taken a suo motu notice of “unnecessary exorbitant fee” Nadra is charging overseas Pakistanis for issuance and cancellation of POC in February.
The apex court had issued the suo motu notice on the complaint of an overseas Pakistani who said the increase in fee was putting undue financial burden on overseas Pakistanis.
According to the complaint, the POC fee was earlier increased to $150 from $100 and then to Rs22,000 for preparation and Rs31,500 for cancellation of the card. The complainant alleged that the Nadra’s move has discouraged overseas Pakistanis to opt for the POC.
Nadra had claimed before the SC last month that the price of the new chip-based smart identification card was comparatively high due to its distinctive features.
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.