. .




The results are disappointing so far as the accuracy of lists was concerned


Apr 01 - 07, 2002

The National Data Base Registration Authority (NADRA) an organization set up by the present government with high expectations and big fanfare is in the dock these days and its performance is being described as highly unsatisfactory.

Ever since its creation, this organisation has been assigned two important tasks. One of these was the preparation of the voters' lists before elections to the local bodies throughout Pakistan. This was no doubt a formidable task but, being a set-up directly in the hands of the armed forces, it was expected that the mission would be achieved within the given time. Nadra did complete the given task but unfortunately, the results were disappointing in so far as the accuracy of the lists was concerned.

The second task assigned to Nadra was the preparation of the computerised national identity cards for the entire population of the country. This too was a gigantic assignment but right from day one, Nadra started making tall claims regarding the speed with which they were going to deliver the new cards to the applicants at their doorsteps, causing them the least botheration. They announced with great confidence through large ads in the national press that the cards would be delivered to the applicants within four weeks of the date they submitted their completed applications. Once they realised that they had been rather overoptimistic about their capabilities, and that the number of applicants was for more than what they had estimated, they increased the delivery period to eight weeks. But that too did not work. There are cases that have been waiting for many months without getting the new cards.

As if all this was not enough, Nadra has now fixed March 31 as the last date by which applications for computerised cards must be submitted. Imagine the rush and the millions of applications pouring into the various offices of Nadra, and then, keeping their earlier performance in view, visualise the efficiency with which this organisation is going to handle the flood of new applications. As per their estimates, new cards will be issued to all applicants by June 30 this year, after which the old cards shall become invalid. Nobody shall be able to get a passport, a driving license, a domicile certificate, open a bank account or perform a hundred and one other essential functions if you are not lucky enough to be blessed with a computerised identity card by that date.

In larger public interest the government would be well advised not to fix a final date for the submission of applications for new cards. Let Nadra go on processing new applications as and when these are received in the normal course of time, in as leisurely a manner as seems to have become a habit with them. Similarly, fixing a cut-off date for the validity of the old cards would not be advisable. It is bound to put the public unnecessarily in a difficult position for no fault of theirs. By now the authorities must have got a fairly good idea of the speed and efficiency with which Nadra can work and the snags from which the present working of this set-up is suffering. It would be futile fixing last dates and then extending these again and again.

As if the problems created by the defective ID cards delivery system were not enough, Interior Minister Moin-ud-Dn Haider has disclosed that the government has also decided to close down the 28 passport offices that are currently working all across the country in order to centralise the entire passport delivery system. Nadra registration centres will be assigned only one responsibility, that of receiving applications for fresh passports from the citizens, including overseas Pakistanis. In another 8-10 months' time, therefore, the story of passport seekers will be the same that of the national identity cards applicants. For those living abroad, getting a passport from Pakistan can easily turn out to be a nightmare. This obsession with centralisation is unique to Nadra. No other country, at least none of the developed ones, requires its citizens living abroad to wait for the issuance of passports from a central office back home; embassies routinely perform this task.

It is hard to understand the logic of it all. Surely, we need to have a centralised database for the ID cards as well as passports in order to remove any possibility of fraud. But that can still be done if the government continues to maintain its regional registration and passport offices to handle the paper work and delivery of ID cards and passports. Such a system in fact, can also allow for instant verification of the applicants. Data maintenance of ID cards and passports are linked yet different kinds of operations, and thus must be treated separately. There is no justification for centralisation of the paper work and delivery service both at the expense of quality and speed of work. The registration offices that are to receive applications for ID cards and passports must also serve as delivery points for the same.