Nationality on sale!

It takes courageous investigative journalism to unearth crime in Pakistan. A team of our reporters carried out a sting operation to uncover a mafia operating in and around the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) that issues Computerised National Identity Cards (CNICs). Due to complaints about fake ID cards in their previous form, the Pakistan government decided to issue computerised NICs. They were wrong in assuming that computerised IDs could not be duplicated. Today, technology has broader, more profound implications for society and the world we live in. Whereas it has made life easier for most honest people, it has also advantaged criminals. In this case, NADRA underestimated the ingenuity of criminal gangs who have gained parallel access to technology and so are able to reproduce near perfect copies of the so-called foolproof NICs. These ID cards are next to impossible to distinguish from the genuine ones. This enables criminals to pass off as responsible members of society and pursue their illegal activities without fear of getting caught. It has now been proved beyond doubt that measures such as chip and pin credit cards and biometric passports that were aimed at curbing identity-theft have failed to curb the menace.

It was a commendable effort on the part of our reporters to carry out what can easily be called a ‘mission impossible’ as it required a lot of scrutiny of details, fact-finding, physical effort and verification of facts. The reporters approached a number of agents dealing in fake ID cards. This was not at all easy, as they were not dealing with professional gangsters. The mafia is working right under the noses of NADRA and nothing much has been done to stop them. When an agent was approached for a fake NIC, he told our undercover reporters that it would be ready in three days, but another agent guaranteed delivery the next day. All one has to do is provide a photograph and fill in the forms, and for a meagre sum of Rs 3,000-5,000 you can get a fake computerised NIC. Our reporters’ team managed fake cards in the name of Mr Imtinan Shahid, the Editor Khabrain, and Muzammil Suhrwardy, a Post reporter. The most disturbing element is that these cards are being used for fake land registration documents, bank loans, credit cards, car leasing, the registration of smuggled vehicles and arm licences. Many immigrants and foreigners have acquired these fake cards to become legal citizens.

While NADRA Chairman, Brig (retd) Salim Moeen, on being confronted, parried by saying that carrying fake NICS should be made a non-bailable offence, he should realise that this whole operation is going on right under his nose. The staff of NADRA might be involved and busting a few fake ID card machines is not the solution. There have been a number of cases where fraud was made possible only due to reliance on cursory formal checks. This method of verification is obviously not enough and it is almost certain that new passports have been issued to aliens with the use of these fake NICs. New and fool-proof methods must be devised by NADRA to ensure that fake NICs are neither issued nor used. At the moment it seems as if it is only too easy to fool the computer and chaos would have been imminent were it not for our intrepid investigative journalists.


Maria said…
interesting. just out of curiosity, isnt an id check required at places like banks and passport offices etc? i mean all they would need to do is to connect to NADRA databae and verify the mappings of serial numbers vs personal details, issuing etc. i mean it isnt 'foolproof' but it wud need the faker (this isnt a word!) to either have seen and memorized the id card he is tryin to fake or wud need illegal access to NADRA website..
mehmal said…
Well, many of the NADRA officials are also involved in this operation. That's why these fake ID cards are as good as the real ones, most probably they have genuine barcodes or something.
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