ISLAMABAD: It took Malik Attahullah, a resident of erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Agencies, two years and a push from parliament to reclaim his national identity, it emerged on Friday when his case was taken up by the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights.
“It is verified that Malik Attahullah and his family members are bona fide residents of tribal district Bajaur and Pakistani nationals,” said chairman of the Senate committee Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar while reading out a letter during its meeting.
The parliamentary body described the case of Mr Attahullah, whose citizenship had been challenged, as that of “political victimisation”.
The issue was raised during the meeting by Usman Khan Kakar, a Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party Senator from Balochistan. He maintained that the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) was being used as a tool to blackmail individuals raising a voice against the “war on terror”.
Bajaur Deputy Commissioner Usman Mehsud, who had been summoned to explain the position on behalf of the state, said that he did not have the authority to block national identity cards. “Nadra blocks identity cards on the directives of intelligence agencies when they suspect an individual. Nadra decides if the case is simple or complex. Nadra forwards the case to the DC concerned for verification. While the political agent had said that this case should be cleared, the previous Bajaur DCO thought it required further investigation,” Mr Mehsud explained to the senators.
He said he took charge as Bajaur DC only six months ago. He said there was still confusion if Mr Attahullah’s case was that of a simple verification or a complex matter.
“However, the matter is now settled and it has now been notified that Malik Attahullah is Pakistani,” Mr Mehsud declared.
Nadra (operations) Director General Nisar Mir, a retired brigadier, informed the committee that Pakistan had passed through trauma and individuals from across the border had tried to acquire Pakistani nationality, with a small percentage of those who succeeded.
“These few individuals have given a bad name to Pakistan by becoming security risks. Agencies have pointed out flaws and urged to take necessary actions to prevent non-nationals from acquiring Pakistani nationality. By law, Nadra can question anyone for proof identification. Malik’s case was reported by the agencies and was a complex case,” he said.
Brig Mir apologised to Mr Attahullah, who was sitting across the table, for the inconvenience caused to him.
According to the Nadra official, the identity cards of 123,000 individuals from all the provinces have been blocked as their nationality is under question.
However, Mr Attahullah, who has been the district president of the Awami National Party (ANP) twice for eight years, has lost nearly a dozen family members, including one of his sons, for refusing to cooperate with terrorists. The Senate committee was further informed that he had survived several attempts on his life and that he still received threats. His son, Hikmatullah, complained that the security provided to his father by the state had been withdrawn.
‘Threat to family’
“There is threat to our family. This committee’s directives to provide us security have not been implemented,” Mr Hikmatullah reminded the committee.
Mr Attahullah has been praised by the armed forces, including the Frontier Corps, for his patriotism, willingness to risk his life and cooperating with the law enforcement agencies during military operations.
However, the Senate committee chairman described Mr Attahullah’s case as abhorrent in that a Pakistani national who had sacrificed so much was deprived of citizenship.
“This committee will deliberate more on this matter by looking into the 123,000 cases to provide relief to people who have been in difficulty and resolve the issue. In the next meeting, Nadra and the Ministry of Interior will explain the process to the committee, for it to pass recommendations to make the system better,” said Mr Khokhar.
Published in Dawn, May 25th, 2019