Deep shadows were cast over the will of Pakistani security forces to persecute terrorists wanted by neighboring countries. Head of the terror network Jundullah(Soldiers of God), Abdolmalek Rigi, who was arrested last week in Iran, has even brought the cloud over the country’s oft reliable National Database Registration Authority(NADRA),responsible for the maintenance of the identity database of the country and issuing authority for citizenship card.
After a citizenship card was found among his possessions. Pakistan’s Interior Minister, Rehman Malik has already declared that the card was fake, however, it is possible that Rigi could have managed to get an authentic Computerized National Identity Card.
Issued in 2004, the card bears the unique citizenship number 42201-5884556-1 with the names Saeed Ahmed, son of Ghulam Haider inscribed. A branch of NADRA located on Shahrah-e-Faisal, in Karachi had issued the card. The address on the card belonged to a madressah in the nearby Shah Faisal Town.
Pakistan’s Interior Ministry was quick to dismiss the card as a fake, making the card a case of identity theft, unheard of since the inception of the new computerized cards in 2000.
However, it is entirely plausible that contrary to the claims of the Pakistani Government, the card could have been an authentic CNIC, enabling Rigi full rights as any ordinary Pakistani citizen, even enabling him to get an authentic passport.
When NADRA was established, its task was to have a product for the people which would help computerize the citizenship records of the country. One of the main benefits of this step foreseen were the false identities would be eliminated. The system, as Rigi’s card may prove could have fallen prey to its strongest link.
Whatever is fed into the system makes the record. What happened in the initial rush when NADRA’s offices and computers were flooded with requests from over 100 million people from across Pakistan.
The old Manual Registration System cards were the primary basis of having a new identity created. These cards could be easily forged and there was no real record to back them up. Along with it were required birth certificate and parents identity cards. Later on the condition of a recent utility bill was added. The initial rush and the overall pressure of the nation grew to get the new computerized identity cards. Toting high standards to minimize the risk of fakes, aliens and the numerous refugees in the country, primarily the Afghans, then the Bengali, Burmese and Philippino communities from getting a valid identity. However, they buckled, the strain bearing too much.
Rigi got his CNIC in around this time period, in 2004. The Interior Ministry says that the card was made in connivance with NADRA officials, but it is highly plausible that Rigi could have had his card made on the basis of falsified documents.
There is another simpler way however. Rigi hails from the border area between Iran and Pakistan. The border here is porous, much like the one Pakistan has with Afghanistan. The local residents do not respect this border and have family on both sides. Far away from any government institutions in the sparsely populated Pakistani province, people here do not get a birth certificate as majority of births take place at the expert hands of mid wives. There are no basic amenities for which these people would ever need either a citizenship card or a driving license. In a situation where there is no documental proof that a person even exists, NADRA devised a solution that the district officer, a minimum Grade 17 would attest on a piece of paper, testifying the claim to citizenship of any person. This simple process could have been exploited by Rigi. Gaining access to Pakistani citizenship the legal way.
A source in NADRA chimed in “its not the job of the data operator to know the significance of any person”. The same source also confirmed that the card had been cancelled, i.e. flagged cancelled in the NADRA system. However, between the time the card was issued and the card was cancelled, Rigi had already flown around the globe with a legitimately made passport.
Pressing the button to cancel the card will only work in scenarios where the card is being punched through a computerized system like that in a bank, Airport or phone and utility connections. A police officer, who would intercept a suspect on the street can check the card manually but will not be able to corroborate with the system whether the card has been cancelled or not.
If at all, the Rigi case has put the spot light on NADRA and the highlighting of these issues would further help improve this award winning database registry system.