Chaman: With Pakistan cracking down on unregistered Afghan refugees in the border provinces, even locals are finding it hard to obtain identity papers as authorities stiffen rules and procedures.
Following the terror attack on an army school in Peshawar that left around 140 people killed, most of the children, the authorities have come down hard on Afghan refugees on the suspicion that refugee camps and settlements harbor terrorists under the guise of refugees.
Even the recently introduced ‘computerized identity cards (CNIC)’ that are otherwise quick to obtain now take months, causing anxiety in the border town of Chaman where refugees are often hard to tell apart from locals.
People wait in long queues outside the office of the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) in Chaman, complaining of delays. Women stand in a different line waiting to get themselves registered.
“It has been ten months and I am still waiting to receive my CNIC,” says Niaz Muhammad, 30, a resident of Chaman. “They [NADRA officials] say it is blocked (on the suspicion that he is Afghan).”
The authorities suspect the local Pashtuns who have blood and ethnic bonds with Afghans across the border may be helping the refugees, posing that they are family numbers. Or Afghan refugees pretending they are locals.
Niaz Muhammad says he has all the relevant documents but his CNIC is blocked in a ‘fraud case’. “I have a local birth certificate, my father’s national identity card [dating back to 1974] and papers showing I own property in Pakistan but I have yet to get a CNIC.”
Niaz says he was informed by the NADRA office that someone in his family had applied for CNIC, showing themselves as his brothers when actually they were not.
He says he doesn’t know who entered his family’s record, pretending to be a member of his family. “Who could take such a fraudulent step without the collusion of NADRA officials?” asks Niaz. “How can a common man reach NADRA database without the permission of officials?”
The ID cards of his entire family are now blocked owing to this fraud. None of the family members can process their CNICs.
“It is only the Pashtun nation whose cards are blocked by NADRA under rules different from the rest of the country”, said Abdul Qahar Wadan, provincial vice president of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party and an elected member of Pakistan’s National Assembly from the Qila Abdullah district.
He said the Pashtuns were deprived of the right of citizenship in Pakistan
Shah Jahan, a local of Chaman, told News Lens that his father had passed away in 2004 but someone else was using his card by pasting a photo on his father CNIC.
“Thank God I inquired and presented my father’s death certificate ten years after his death at NADRA office, otherwise we wouldn’t have known that my father’s CNIC was being used by another person”, said Shah Jahan. “They may even use it for criminal purposes.”.
Shah complains: “Nobody can undertake such fraudulent steps without help from officials since desperate Afghans pay handsome money to Chaman based NADRA officials (for a counterfeit card).”
Shah Jahan is not alone. Many visitors at the NADRA office complained of “fraud cases” and delay in the processing of their CNICs.
Abdul Bashir says his mother need to have a passport for pilgrimage to Mecca. “But her CNIC is not yet cleared of a ‘fraud case’ even though we have completed all relevant documents and submitted them to the NADRA inquiry committee a year ago.”
The NADRA official website mentions Documentation Requirements for a CNIC as: “Birth Certificate or Old NIC or Matriculation Certificate [for literate only] or CNICs of immediate/blood relatives or Citizenship Certificate issued by MOI [ministry of interior]. No documents are demanded from illiterate applicant for age verification for first time”.
“The rules and requirements for citizenship card of Pashtuns are strict and different from the rest of Pakistan”, says Qahar Wadan. “In Punjab, Sindh and Baloch areas you can easily be registered as s Pakistani national. But in the Pashtun populated areas of Balochistan and rest of the country even today thousands of CNICs are blocked under discriminatory rules by NADRA. I have raised the issue several time on the floor of National Assembly floor but NADRA continues to pursue its harsh policy toward us [Pashtuns].”
News Lens tried to speak to the officer In charge of the NADRA office, Jillani, but he refused to talk to media.
Abdul Zahir, a local trader, said that he paid Rupees 20 thousand [200 US $] to expedite the processing of his card. “I cannot wait for months and years due to the delay tactics by NADRA officials”, he said. “I am forced to pay bribe to the local agents of the said office.”
Nazir Ahmad, a local, said it was only a matter of money to access an illegal card way but genuine document-holders were facing difficulties and forced to pay bribe. Nazir Ahmed, 42, says he has been approached by agents several times asking if he wanted a CNIC card for money.
Donning a white turban, Mullah Muhammad Umer, 30, said he had complete documents wanted by NADRA but his CNIC was still not processed.
“Perhaps, I look like a mullah and that may be why they are holding back my card”, said Umer. “Otherwise, my father and brothers have national ID cards. I am given tough time even for renewal when I had submitted all my documents four years ago to get a card in the first place.”