The results are disappointing
so far as the accuracy of lists was concerned
From SHAMIM AHMED
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.