The curious case of ‘4m fake’ CNICs

If names of these fake CNIC holders are added in the voters’ lists, the democratic system will be in question


Rizwan Shehzad   July 19, 2021

ISLAMABAD:

On July 16, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan categorically denied and refuted the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA)’s claim that National Database & Registration Authority (NADRA) had issued three-to-four million fake CNICs while responding to a calling attention notice in the upper house of the parliament.

The parliamentary affairs minister, while questioning the findings of FIA Sindh Director Amir Farooqi, had said on the floor of the house that either Farooqi “misunderstood” the figures or the “source that had provided it was wrong”.

Khan said that government has issued 2,965,535 CNICs since 2018 and it falls short of four million figure, adding the statement was irresponsible and appeared to be a slip of the tongue. “I don't know how a responsible individual can say this,” he wondered.

Now, sources in the FIA have told The Express Tribune that the report regarding corruption in NADRA enabling local and foreign militants to get Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC) with the involvement of NADRA officials for monetary and other gains had come from the Ministry of Interior (MOI) itself.

“Report had come from MOI itself,” a high-up source in FIA revealed when asked how they see the minister’s reaction to the findings. Background discussion with sources in FIA, which is under the control of the interior ministry, revealed that it was surprising to see the minister questioning the government’s prepared report.

MOI officials while requesting anonymity confirmed that the report was shared with FIA by the ministry but “MOI never gave the 4 million figure” saying, “this is their [FIA]’s own assessment.”

Sharing more details about the sources of the report, an interior ministry official said that the intelligence agencies had prepared the report and submitted to MOI.

“On the initial findings through certain intelligence agencies’ reports submitted to MOI, the report was given to FIA which led to further investigation by FIA,” an official said, reiterating that the 4m figure was never given by the ministry to FIA and, apparently, incorporated by FIA itself.

The official added that chairman NADRA has also agitated the 4m fake CNIC figure in a high-level meeting, saying “it’s incorrect”.

Read 4m ‘fake CNICs’ claim baffles lawmakers

The issue of roughly four million ‘fake CNICs’ had echoed in Senate and the National Assembly on Friday after Farooqi while speaking at a press conference at his office in Karachi had revealed that some employees of NADRA helped militants linked with the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Al-Qaeda in Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and proscribed outfits of Baloch sub-nationalist groups to get CNICs in return for monetary and other gains.

Farooqi, in the press conference, had named several foreigners, including an Indian citizen Imran Ali, who was involved in the Safoora carnage; and terrorists involved in the attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi, who got CNICs from NADRA. He also revealed that foreign agencies breached and damaged NADRA’s system.

The scandal of militants getting Pakistani national identity cards in exchange for bribes or some illegal gains has, however, not surfaced for the first time. Reportedly, in 2015, the Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) had uncovered that NADRA issued ID cards to militants, including some linked to al Qaeda, in return for bribes as small as US$100.

The lawmakers of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) – the PTI government’s ally from Sindh – had raised the issue in both the houses, which was subsequently referred to the standing committees concerned for further discussion.

In NA, MQM-P’s Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, Kishwer Zehra, Iqbal Muhammad Khan, Usama Qadri, Engr. Sabir Hussain Kaim Khani while, In Senate, MQM-P’s Senator Faisal Subzwari, drew the attention of the interior ministry regarding the issuance of bogus CNICs in Sindh by NADRA.

The MQM lawmakers had said that the issue was extremely troubling for the entire country as the officials of the institution tasked with securing Pakistan’s data were busy making fake CNICs for foreign agencies, banned organizations and terrorist outfits.

Siddiqui had demanded that the interior minister should apprise the House about the individuals whose CNICs were made, adding that the issue has raised questions on the claims regarding Pakistan’s security, bringing transparency in and ending corruption from institutions.

The issue should also be looked upon in the context of changing situation in Afghanistan, Siddiqui said, asking to investigate which party was in power when CNICs were issued.

He said that the issue has damaged NADRA’s credibility and merits a thorough investigation.

“If the names of these fake CNIC holders are added in the voters’ lists then the question would be raised on the whole process of the democratic system,” he warned.

Despite several attempts, Khan and Farooqi could not be reached for comments.

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