Suspension of Nadra verification at Torkham to benefit criminals

Published September 22, 2021
The abrupt suspension of online verification of all Pakistani nationals at the Nadra centre at Torkham border has put the personal identification process in serious jeopardy. — AFP/File
The abrupt suspension of online verification of all Pakistani nationals at the Nadra centre at Torkham border has put the personal identification process in serious jeopardy. — AFP/File

KHYBER: The abrupt suspension of online verification of all Pakistani nationals at the Nadra centre at Torkham border has put the personal identification process in serious jeopardy as it would provide an opportunity to people with dubious credentials to either enter or leave the country without being detected.

Sources privy to the development told Dawn on condition of anonymity that the suspension would seriously hamper the working of intelligence agencies, Frontier Corps (FC), army, National Logistics Cell (NLC), Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and Customs authorities stationed at Torkham as they needed Nadra verification of suspected persons on regular basis to check the authenticity of the personal data of the people travelling between Pakistan and Afghanistan on regular basis.

It can also affect working of army, FC, FIA and NLC at the border

They said that the online service of verification of computerised data of anyone done through satellite from Islamabad was shut down by Nadra a few days ago without furnishing any reason. It left its data operating staffers groping in the dark as they lost every access to instant and accurate online verification.

They said that they had been working in close liaison with FC, FIA and NLC alongside intelligence agencies as the information provided to those government departments helped them in detecting and even arresting people with criminal record.

Sources said that the suspension would also adversely affect the daily verification of Easement Rights Citizens, who were living close to the border and were exempted from visa restriction. “The number of such people runs into thousands as they mostly include local labourers and daily wagers, who need frequent online verification by Nadra for their constant cross-border movement,” they added.

They said that intelligence agencies, FIA, Customs and NLC dearly needed Nadra assistance in the verification process, Nadra itself was trying to wind up its operations at Torkham as the centre was not generating any revenue for it.

Nadra has also not provided its Torkham centre any stationary or other office paraphernalia required for its day to day running for more than three months.

Sources that at least nine local data entry operators (DEOs) and two Naib Qasids had been working at the Torkham Nadra centre without salaries for over three months as their contract ended in June.

The affected staff said that though they were initially employed by Nadra in 2015, yet their services were later ‘acquired’ under the Torkham Border Management System 24/7 earlier by the erstwhile Khyber political administration and then by the district administration after the merger of tribal areas into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The DEOs said that they had been efficiently handling data operations and verification of all pedestrians, both Pakistani and Afghans, for the last six years but their services were not regularised while their contracts had also been suspended by the erstwhile political administration and the district administration without assigning any reason.

Officials at the Nadra offices in Peshawar insisted that they had nothing to do with the regularisation of services of its staff at the Torkham centre. They said that the existing staff was working under the deputy commissioner of Khyber.

They said that Nadra was only providing technical support while the future status of the existing staff would be decided by the provincial home department in consultation with deputy commissioner.

They however, could not give any satisfactory answer about the suspension of online verification service.

The deputy commissioner, when contacted, said that the project under which the current staffers were employed ended in June and their salaries were deposited in the administration account by the provincial government.

Sources said that suspension of online verification service could halt all types of cross-border movement at Torkham for fear of militants, wanted persons and other criminal elements taking advantage of the withdrawal of the said facility.

Published in Dawn, September 22nd, 2021

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