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Govt to sue The Sun over visa scam report

Published Jul 25, 2012 09:28pm


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Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Qamar Zaman Kaira along with Chairman NADRA Tariq Mahmood jointly briefs the media persons about cabinet meeting and visa scam during a press conference at PM Secretariat. – Photo by APP

ISLAMABAD / LAHORE: The ‘UK visa scam’ which has engulfed the country over a couple of days, triggering large-scale arrests of Nadra and passport officials allegedly involved in issuing fake identity cards and passports, has proved to be fake, the government says.

The federal cabinet was informed on Wednesday that a British national of Pakistan origin who also had Pakistani nationality, Mohammad Ali Asad, had joined hands with the London tabloid, The Sun, to engineer the fake scam against Pakistan.

“The government has taken serious notice of the ‘knee-jerk’ reaction of some departments over the story carried in the newspaper which has a bad reputation, without determining the facts,” Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira told media personnel after the cabinet meeting.

After receiving briefings from the law ministry, the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) and the passport office, the government has decided to file a defamation suit against the newspaper for bringing disrepute to the country, he said.

“The prime minister has asked the law ministry and other departments concerned to file the suit as soon as possible.”

Replying to a question, he said: “Yes, a wrong has been committed by making arrests, including those of women staff members of the Nadra office in Lahore, without prior investigation, and the prime minister has ordered special measures so that such incidents don’t take place in future.”

After the publication on July 23 of the report headlined ‘Olympic terror visa racket’, the Prime Minister’s Adviser on Interior Affairs Rehman Malik had ordered the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to get hold of officials mentioned in it.

Mr Malik, known for jumping to conclusions, constituted a joint investigation team comprising officials of the FIA, Intelligence Bureau and Inter-Services Intelligence to investigate the scam.

Based on a sting operation, the newspaper report detailed how a racket involving Nadra and passport officials and private travel agents managed to smuggle people to London in the garb of players and supporting staff for participating in the Olympic games.

At the press briefing, Nadra Chairman Tariq Malik said the authority had recently beaten some British firms in international bidding for a $166 million contract in Kenya and “the story appears to have been crafted to defame Pakistan against this background”.

He said Nadra had conducted a thorough investigation into the report and found it unfounded and baseless.

He said there had been no fraud or illegal activity in the issuance of the identity card and passport of Mohammad Ali Asad, son of Mohammad Anwer Siddique. Documentary and video evidence proved that the man was himself there to get his expired computerised national identity card renewed.

According to Nadra’s database, Mohammad Ali Asad got his first national identity card (number 35202-2660630-5) on Feb 6, 2002. He later immigrated to the United Kingdom and has been living there for eight to 10 years. His UK passport (number 506486804) was issued on Oct 24 last year and it carries the same name and photograph as in Nadra’s record, but a different date of birth, which he apparently got changed to secure British nationality.

According to Mr Malik, after having been picked by The Sun for the undercover assignment, Mohammad Ali Asad travelled to Pakistan on July 8. He stayed at the Avari Hotel in Lahore from July 8 to July 31 at a cost of Rs18,000 per day. He went to the Nadra office in Baghbanpura on July 10 to get his photograph updated against his own CNIC rather than getting someone else’s identity as claimed by the newspaper.

His CNIC was updated after matching it with his previous record in the database. After getting his CNIC modified, he went through the process for getting a machine-readable passport (MRP) on July 13 and it was delivered to him on July 18.

“Since the same person applied to renew his own ID card and for provision of a passport, nothing illegal was done,” Mr Malik said.

He termed the story “a despicable attempt to undermine the strength of Pakistan’s CNIC and passport issuance systems and make the citizens lose faith in critical and sensitive operations of the country”.

Meanwhile, the FIA released four officials of the passport office and Nadra and three travel agents for want of evidence against them. However, it obtained physical remand of four other officials.

It presented Asif, Wasif, Mukhtar and Fahim -- officials of Nadra and the passport office -- before a special magistrate for their alleged role in the reported scam and obtained their three-day physical remand.

The interior ministry’s special investigation team headed by FIA’s Additional Director General Chaudhry Tanvir is in Lahore and is yet to complete its findings.

Replying to a question, Chaudhry Tanvir said: “We buy the stance of Nadra but we will have to look into all aspects related to the travel agency, The Sun’s team and all those who were part of this alleged scam.”

When asked whether the FIA would arrest Asad for defaming the country, he said: “We are also investigating this aspect and probably will go after him as well.”

The FIA also arrested a suspected human smuggler, Saba Naz alias Madam Babari, for giving an ad for sending people to the UK during the Olympics.


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Comments (9) Closed

Fida Ahmed Advocate Jul 26, 2012 09:34am
There is a famous legal saying that those who seek justice, must go to court with clean hands. If NADRA / Passport authority are innocent in the alleged case, then they must not waste time and seek justice forthwith. I wish that The Sun is wrong and we are right but then I also know that mere wishes catch no fishes.
MartinBell Jul 26, 2012 02:01pm
Olympics committee apologised for their mistake and staff got suspended until an investigation is complete in the 11 year boy's case. Nobody talked about a conspiracy of Korea to British image and nobody called it a plan to infiltrate security. Meanwhile in Pakistan, the first response by most is about severe criticism of the newspaper reporting this rather than saying anything AFTER the investogation. Although, I must admit, apologies are being made to the UK by Mr Rehman Malik. Good news is that he didn't need an Olympic visa to go to the UK. But obviously you cannot blame the ministers and government officials. They are only copying their boss!
Asad Jul 26, 2012 03:55pm
There is no way, you can deceive Nadra's matching system. its impossible.
wasiim Jul 28, 2012 08:29am
it seem to be taken casual matter since related to Pakistan; but if it would have happened the other way i.e. with British than it would reacted to like a nuclear attack on their integrity. Pakistani authorities should learn to teach others how to respect them.
malik Jul 26, 2012 03:46am
Ha ha ha
Malik Jul 26, 2012 04:41am
Good move.. do not leave in middle this issue. go till the end and teach these brits a lesson through proper law suit and pursue it till end, do not crumble to any political pressure from UK government of which Rehman Malik is part...
Dr Aziz Jul 26, 2012 04:46am
Weldone... We want regular update in MEDIA specially in UK about the update of scam. We should respond hard who try to defame our beloved Pakistan...
AmirDewani Jul 26, 2012 01:17pm
The scams like these must be condemned outright. There is no reason to be complacent on this score. But the SUN must also have the sagacity to be honest enough to follow up the following stories concerning the blunders noted here under in their domain of the kingdom where it is said, 'The king/queen can do no wrong, say no wrong or read/write no wrong". :- (i) The blunder of hosting S.Korean flag instead of the N. Korean flag at the London Olympics just yesterday. For this worst kind of blunder the Olympic Organizers have had to apologize and cut a sorry figure. Are they capable to manage this top rated event where more than 10,000 sports men/women are competing in around 26 different sports? Criticizing others is easy and convenient to ridicule those who abhor you as 60 -year old 'monarchy'. (ii) The entire world got shivering to learn about the 11-year boy Liam Corcoran who be-fooled the entire security establishment in the UK airport just the day before yesterday. He managed to throw dust in their eyes by crossing as many as five security check points and could easily board the flight to Rome without passport, ticket or even the boarding pass! No questions asked, rather shown courtesy and smiles for his act of boldness. He is reported to say: "It was easier than doing my homework:. (Ref: Mail-online-July 25, 2012. where I read this story). Now let us expect the SUN to follow up this story till the logical conclusion and remember: ' THOSE WHO LIVE IN GLASS HOUSES MUST CARE NOT TO THROW STONES AT THE OTHERS- you like it or lump it. However the Passport scam in Pakistan must be thoroughly investigated and names of those responsible, right from the subordinates to the concerned minister/adviser, must be put on exit-control list; and all concerned must go to jails if found guilty. (ii)
Isakhel Jul 26, 2012 08:54am
The UK's Sun newspaper is a tabloid, known for inventing stories and fabricating facts. Another of the newspapers owned by Ruper Murdoch's media empire. Its read by the average guy who makes fast opinions of hate once he/she reads the stories, almost never to question. This particular story also seems a fabrication, especially the terrorism twist. The Pakistan government must pursue this matter in UK courts to name and shame the Sun and bring this horrible practice by tabloids to justice.