Despite re-verifying CNICs, the Mullah Akhtar Mansoors in Pakistan will continue to enjoy their perks and fake identities

Published: May 27, 2016
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Interior minister Chaudhry Nisar gives NADRA 48 hours to prepare, submit a work plan. PHOTO: EXPRESS

What a strange country we live in!

First you harbour terrorists from across the border, facilitate them and help them get a computerised national identity card (CNIC) and travel documents. Then when, inevitably, the terrorist is found with those documents provided to him by the state, the interior minister of Pakistan acts indignant and says that he would push for re-verification of all CNICs in the country. Now what did I, a hapless citizen of Pakistan, do to be punished for what is essentially a sin of the state?

And what will re-verification achieve?

What new Standard Operation Procedures (SOP) will the government put in place to ensure that a CNIC holder is a bona fide citizen of Pakistan, beyond confirming that there was a corresponding Form B and a family number? These checks must already have been in place when Mullah Akhtar Mansoor got his identity as Wali Muhammad of Killa Abdullah district. He managed to hoodwink the state and its system not because the SOP was not in place but because for him the SOP was bypassed. This means of course that this proposed re-verification is going to fail just as original verification failed to the needful. The powers that be will ensure that CNICs of those special guests in our country remain exempted from any proof of life or family in Pakistan.

I have no doubt about it. The reason why Mullah Akhtar Mansoor could masquerade as Wali Muhammad for so long and take a whopping nine trips abroad from Karachi was because the state allowed him to do so. He was a guest of the state and the state bent over backwards to make his stay with us comfortable. He travelled freely, and now that he has been caught, what integrity remains of the system of checks and balances that the state supposedly deploys to ensure that its citizens are accounted for?

The proposed re-verification will not restore the world’s confidence in Pakistan’s CNICs and passports unless and until the state changes its attitude at the top and stops playing these God awful games with us. As I argued in my last blog, we need to ask the state hard questions about why it continues to tolerate individuals who are wanted by the world?

Subjecting citizens to the torture of re-verification therefore is not the answer. And torture it will be. If biometric SIM verification carried out last year in Pakistan is any indication, this will be an incredibly painful process.

Here is how it will pan out.

One fine day the interior minister will announce that every citizen of Pakistan has to appear before their local NADRA office and get their CNIC re-verified within six months. Now imagine the load it would put on NADRA. It would have to recheck its own work that it has done over a decade at least. Inevitably there will be a substantial chunk of our population that will not be able to meet the deadline, and make no mistake, by a substantial chunk I mean a number in tens of millions. Their CNICs would stand cancelled. Their passports revoked. Their votes struck off. Their verified SIMs unverified. Interestingly the telecom companies have spent billions of rupees verifying their SIMs/MSISDNs.

Clearly the exercise would have to be undertaken again or else the whole thing would become a joke.

The consequences of such disenfranchisement by the state will be dire. For all practical purposes these Pakistani citizens would become aliens. What little fundamental rights they have today would be taken away from them. Usually a citizen needs his or her CNIC to file a constitutional writ petition before a High Court. This means that even the doors of justice would be closed upon them. All this because instead of facing the facts and admitting that the state made a mistake harbouring Mullah Mansoor aka Wali Muhammad, Chaudhry Nisar would rather carry out another eye wash.

Well I doubt the world will buy it this time. As is, Pakistani passport holders are looked upon with suspicion the world over, even in countries that we consider our closest friends and brothers. Now expect greater scrutiny at every stage from visa application to actual travel. We are in for long drawn out humiliation. I fear that the posterity will curse us.

The buck does stop at us as citizens. We have, through our inaction, apathetic attitude allowed fools, crooks, cranks and mad men to run this fine country of ours, geniuses who have squandered every advantage we had and who have amplified our every shortcoming for the world to see. We have tolerated incompetence and indifference, whether by civilian rulers or military, and instead of rising up on very real issues confronting us we have feebly allowed curbs on the space for legitimate political dissent.

Democracy means participatory government by the people and for the people. To us, however, it has seldom meant anything more than replacing one tyrant with 1000 tyrants. We have allowed ourselves to be blackmailed in the name of national interest, religion and honour. We have never really resisted anything on principle. Never in my adult life have I ever seen a true movement of the people organised around their inalienable human rights. Even God does not help those who do not help themselves.

And so it will be business as usual.

Chaudhry Nisar will force this re-verification upon us. We will humbly submit to this fresh eyewash. Meanwhile the real aliens in the country, of which there are many, will continue to enjoy their perks, privileges and fake identities with impunity.

Yasser Latif Hamdani

Yasser Latif Hamdani

The writer is a lawyer based in Lahore and the author of the book Mr Jinnah: Myth and Reality. He tweets as @theRealYLH (twitter.com/therealylh)

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