One year on: No database yet to monitor foreigners

Foreign Office still waiting for a response from interior ministry.

Our Correspondent July 25, 2012


Authorities have failed to set up a database of foreigners travelling to Pakistan to determine the nature of their visits, more than a year after it was first proposed following the Raymond Davis debacle.

Last year, confusion was rife regarding the diplomatic immunity for the American who killed two people in Lahore. Davis, allegedly a security contractor working for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), shot dead two motor bikers chasing him on one of the city’s busiest roads in January 2011.

Pakistani authorities had no clue whether Davis was a diplomat and had immunity from criminal proceedings within Pakistan. US diplomats based in Islamabad and officials in Washington aggressively pushed Pakistan to recognise Davis’ diplomatic status and release him from a jail in Lahore.

The foreign ministry, however, stood up to the pressure and refused to let the man walk out of prison unless he paid blood money to the relatives of those he had shot.

To avoid such episodes in the future, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had planned to establish and maintain a database of all foreigners visiting Pakistan to determine the nature of their visits.

Officials at the Foreign Office told The Express Tribune on Tuesday that they were still waiting for a response from their counterparts at the interior ministry to the proposal sent to them almost a year ago.

“We have sent them several reminders that it is urgent and it needs to be dealt with immediately but there hasn’t been any response so far. They are taking it too lightly,” said one of the officials.

The idea behind building the database was to have efficiently-categorised data available as to which category visa has been issued to which foreign individual.

Pakistani missions abroad issued 14 different kinds of visas to foreigners and one of the categories include diplomats and the staffers of the United Nations (both of which are treated alike).

A written summary calling for preparation of the proposed database was then forwarded from the foreign to the interior ministry for further action.

The National Alien Registration Authority (NARA) – an agency working under the interior ministry – was assigned to prepare the database.

Meanwhile, the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) was supposed to prepare a software to support this database under the proposed plan envisaged by the authorities at the Foreign Office. NADRA Chairman Tariq Malik told The Express Tribune the proposal was still with the Ministry of Interior and his institution was ready to play its part anytime.

NADRA would prepare a supporting software after NARA completed the registration of foreigners, Malik explained.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2012.