The 13 stages of visiting a NADRA office

Published: May 1, 2016
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While you wait for your number to be called, you are treated to a display of littering, loud belching, extreme and unwarranted interest in your affairs from complete strangers; you name it. PHOTO: MATIULLAH ACHAKZAI

We’re all accustomed to that dreadful trip to NADRA that we’ve delayed for far too long. Why dreadful? Here’s a list to jog your memory.

Stage 1: Mild panic

You’re told that the B-Form you have used for the past 10 years is no longer valid; now you need the digital one. Or your ‘digital’ ID card is no longer digital, or your child is 18. That’s right, now you need to visit your nearest NADRA office.

Stage 2: Determination

You call the helpline and a polite customer services representative answers all of your questions in great detail. You begin to hope. You have all the required documents. You can do this!

Stage 3: Trepidation

Of course, ‘nearest’ is a relative term. It could mean anything from the same street to the next town. You locate the temple of bureaucratic doom and quail at how long the lines are. A notice says that today is only for female applicants, you are a little relieved, but then you realise that ‘female’ is also a relative term. It probably means people who can’t or don’t read notices.

Stage 4: Resignation

You walk in and are confronted by a man next to a token machine. You try to explain why you’re here (a digital death certificate carved on a piece of granite perhaps?) but he ignores you and presses a random button, gives you a token and pretends to be deaf.

Stage 5: Slight irritation

While you wait for your number to be called, you are treated to a display of littering, loud belching, extreme and unwarranted interest in your affairs from complete strangers; you name it. You might as well start making friends. Chances are you’re going to be here a long time.

Stage 6: Extreme irritation then some smugness

Your number is close, you get in line and someone decides that they need to cut in front of you. You ask them to please come when their number is called but they smile at you like they are above such things and insist that they’re in a hurry. Before you can ask them which member of the Obama family they have waiting outside, the man behind the counter, takes one look at their token (or lack thereof) and tells them to get lost. You smile.

Stage 7: Mild confusion

When you get to the counter, the zombie behind it asks for all the documents and photocopies that you know you needed. Then he asks you for documents that you didn’t know you needed. Thankfully, you had decided to play it safe and bring along every single scrap of your official and unofficial identity. He sighs (you’ve cheated him out of torture), charges an exorbitant amount of money because you’re in a hurry, gives you a receipt and waves you into the office’s inner sanctum.

Stage 8: Complete bewilderment

The next few hours are spent being shuttled between different tables; first a picture is taken (there is nothing that can make it less horrible), then one after the other various NADRA officials first open your bio-data on their computers, read it out to you for confirmation then open entirely new screens and begin to type out the same information afresh.

Stage 9: Identity crisis

You’re asked to confirm your date of birth, grandmother’s name, marital status (“You’re absolutely sure you’re married? Positive? Is that your final answer?”) favourite colour, childhood best friend’s name, etc.  You’re asked to produce all your documentation but your triumph lasts only five minutes because now they want you to produce your dead father, your sibling’s spouse, your pet cat and your neighbour’s gardener to confirm your identity. You stutter that that’s not possible. The official looks at you like they’re sorry they have to share the earth with such an ignoramus and ask you what you expect them to do now.

Stage 10: Slight recovery

You suggest that maybe you could bring your mother. The official sighs like he’s doing you a huge favour. You rush home to fetch her.

Stage 11: Anger

When you return, your mother confirms that you are, in fact, yourself. The official then informs you that they have no data on your husband so he can’t exist. You argue that he does. The official relents, and prints out a piece of paper with all the information that they just copied off their own servers that you must now, along with all photocopies, get attested.

Stage 12: Homicidal rage

You get to the very gates of hell where you have your information attested (you can now explicitly prove that you are you) and finally submit everything at counter number three.

Stage 13: Nirvana

You pray every day that nothing gets lost and that your documents are made on time. You have survived a baptism by the red-taped fire. Nothing can stop you now.

Except another visit to NADRA.

Sakina Hassan

Sakina Hassan

The author is currently studying for an Mphil degree at the Centre of Excellence in Solid State Physics.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.