On December 4, 2015, the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) cancelled the computerised national identity cards (CNICs) of Wali Muhammad Khan and his family comprising his wife and five children. They are Pashtuns and have been residing in Lahore.
“My father Soor Gul was born in Pakistan and has a valid CNIC. My mother Shah Bibi is also a Pakistani as per Nadra’s record. But I, their son, is not a Pakistani,” says Wali Muhammad Khan, a resident of Mohallah Nabi Park, Qila Muhammadi in Lahore. “Our CNICs have not been restored despite the LHC having set aside Nadra orders on July 20, 2017.” Wali Muhammad Khan’s is the first case where the Lahore High Court has made such a declaration.
After Nadra terminated his CNIC forcibly, usurping his basic right of citizenship, it has been tough for Wali Muhammad Khan to earn his livelihood and feed his five children, Somia, Afia, Abdullah, Ibadulla, Gamla and wife Azra Bibi. A trader by profession, Khan has already suffered a huge loss in his business at Shah Alam Market Lahore in the absence of CNIC. He feels intimidated, fearing he may be thrown out of the country, leaving behind his property, business and on top of all, his parents.
Khan’s forefathers had moved from Afghanistan to the part that later became Pakistan in 1901. “Our close relatives have served in different government departments and are now pension-holders,” he says.
Wali Muhammad Khan’s case mirrors a large-scale human tragedy, triggered by the sloppy national re-verification programme run by Nadra and interior ministry in which thousands of Pakistanis are forced to struggle for citizenship in their own homeland. They are being tagged as aliens and declared as ‘Afghan’ in the light of intelligence agencies’ reports without furnishing any legal reasoning and proofs.
According to a Nadra official, on condition of anonymity, there are thousands of people from Punjab among the 180,000 whose CNICs were blocked last year. They did not have fake documents. The action was taken on intelligence agencies’ reports, following which the Authority had to cancel their CNICs.
He reveals that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa bears the most brunt with blocked CNICs at 41,554, while 40,100 cards have been blocked in Sindh, more than 39,000 in Punjab, 24,505 in Balochistan and 6,159 in Islamabad.
Babar Nawaz Khan, Chairperson National Assembly Standing Committee on Human Rights, says that during a meeting with Deputy Speaker National Assembly Murtaza Javed Abbasi who also heads the parliamentary committee on the national re-verification programme, “it came up that in the wake of the clumsy national re-verification programme, almost 150,000 CNICs blocked by Nadra have been restored temporarily”.
“If Wali Muhammad Khan and some others submit an application seeking genuine relief, their case may be taken up to address the issue as per law and constitution,” says Babar Nawaz Khan.
Chaudhry Shoaib Saleem, an advocate from Lahore representing Wali Muhammad, who has challenged Nadra, ISI and interior ministry’s lopsided policy of depriving Pakistanis of their citizenship says, “Wali Muhammad got his domicile in 1994 when the authorities verified that he was born of parents who are permanent residents of NWFP. A certificate saying he was born there was duly signed and verified by the Deputy Commissioner Charsadda. He passed his Matriculation from Peshawar Board in October 19, 1994. He pays tax regularly. In 2016, he submitted Rs13,748 in 2016 in FBR with registration No 1710102419979. In Police record, he has never been found involved in any criminal activity. He has a clean record in Board of Revenue being owner of properties in Lahore.”
On a query, he clarifies that under Section 18 of Nadra Ordinance 2000, Nadra can cancel the CNIC but it has no power to revoke citizenship. So far all the orders issued by authorities are violative of law and constitution.
In fact cancellation of CNIC and revoking of Citizenship are two different steps and involve two separate processes. If the government wants to annul the citizenship, the Pakistan Citizenship Act 1951 has to be invoked that says that Federal government may on application being made or on its own motion deprive any citizen of citizenship if it is satisfied that it is in public interest. The procedure says that the federal government cannot do anything on its own; rather it refers such case to an inquiry committee that decides whether or not evidences submitted by authorities are legally sound to undo citizenship.
Nadra Law officer Jameel Khan claims that Wali Muhammad and his dependents (siblings and wife) have been declared non-nationals by an intelligence agency letter on December 4, 2015. Their CNICs have been cancelled by Nadra within the ambit of Section 18 of Nadra Ordinance 2000 after issuing show cause notices. According to the agency, their domicile, Matriculation certificate, FBR tax documents and property document do not make them citizen of Pakistan.
Since military operations like Zarb-e-Azab and Raddul Fasad were put into effect, the Interior ministry went on a rampage and forgot to differentiate between nationals and non-nationals in a massive drive to purge the country of Afghans. In some cases, suspicion works and helps the authorities to flush out non-nationals.