4m ‘fake CNICs’ claim baffles lawmakers

Minister says roughly 2.9m cards issued in Sindh in last 4 years

4m ‘fake CNICs’ claim baffles lawmakers
4m ‘fake CNICs’ claim baffles lawmakers

Corruption in the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) left lawmakers in the Senate and the National Assembly baffled on Friday as the government questioned the veracity of claims that roughly 4 million fake computerised national identity cards (CNICs) have been issued.

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

Allegations that the militants getting the CNICs in exchange for bribes or some other illegal gains are not new. Reportedly, the intelligence agencies had uncovered in 2015 that NADRA issued identity cards to militants, including some linked to Al Qaeda, in return for bribes as small as $100.

This time around, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Sindh Director Amir Farooqi revealed in a press conference in Karachi that some employees of NADRA helped militants linked to the proscribed outfits get the CNICs in return for monetary gains.

Read more: NADRA can’t block, cancel CNICs: IHC

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

The lawmakers, while referring to Farooqi’s press conference, 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 organisations and terrorist outfits.

They lawmakers lamented that people with legitimate credentials run from pillar to post to fulfil NADRA’s requirements while the militants were helped for monetary gains. Calling for action against those officials, they lawmakers also demanded that people responsible for inducting these officials for such means be exposed.

Expressing concerns on Farooqi’s claim that 50-60% of NADRA employees and officers in Sindh were involved in preparing the fake CNICs, they also called for the cancellation of the fake CNICs and to cleanse the voter lists from the false entries.

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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 the CNICs from NADRA. He also revealed that foreign agencies breached and damaged NADRA’s system.

In the Senate, State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan refuted the claim that NADRA issued three-to-four million fake CNICs. He said that the claim could not be more wrong because roughly 2.9 million CNICs had been issued in Sindh in the last four years. The minister termed Farooqi’s figures either “misunderstood” or the “source that had provided it was wrong”.

Admitting that wrong things sometimes happened in NADRA, Khan said that NADRA was vigilant and 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.

He told the house that 39 NADRA employees in Sindh were suspended and first information reports (FIRs) against 10 individuals were registered.