Nadra opens cards scheme in UK amid controversy
By: Murtaza Ali Shah
LONDON: National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) chairman Tariq Malik formally launched the Smart NICOP (National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis) outsourcing scheme amid huge controversy and fears that details of millions of Pakistanis are now open to manipulation and fraud.
Rehman Malik, adviser to PM on interior affairs, pulled out from the event at the last minute and preferred to stay in Pakistan. Even until Sunday morning, the Pakistan High Commission in London was inviting media and Pakistani community to come to the launch event and hear Rehman Malik in person about the virtues of the scheme but Malik was advised to cancel his visit.
After The News published a detailed report on Saturday highlighting the scandalous details of the outsourcing deal and how no due diligence was taken to ensure the details of Pakistanis are not fiddled with, Nadra issued a rebuttal stating that such reports are ‘baseless and malicious’, that can ‘damage a government organization’, and threatened ‘action against blackmailers and slanderers at all possible avenues within Pakistan and abroad’. But Nadra failed to provide a convincing and satisfactory reply to any of the serious concerns raised in the report.
The entire exercise involving the outsourcing of Nadra data – now smartly called Smart NICOP scheme — to a UK company has been a fraud exercise from the very beginning. Senior officials within Nadra have opposed the outsourcing plans tooth and nail, sources said.
Nadra claims that it uses state of the art encryption to protect its data and there has not been one issue with the protection, safety or security of the data of citizens of Pakistan in the past 12 years but it fails to inform what measures exactly it has taken to ensure that the data of the individuals is not altered, damaged or stolen in any way.
If Nadra needed assistance in the selection of building in the UK cities to market in the UK, then what procedure was followed to choose the specific organization that will do the job? What are the details about the open-tender for marketing and building services, where did the details of the bid appear and who executed the bidding, when and where? What criterion was used to select the organization, on what basis, who made the decision and who influenced the decisions?
After the tender was allegedly opened, how many applications did Nadra receive, why were others rejected and why was IIS was chosen? Is it ‘International Identity Services Limited (6956966) or the International Identity Services (UK) Limited (07376704) that was chosen in the first place? Did Nadra raise any questions as to what was the need for the same people to register a different company? Why and who were the new people brought in? What checks were made into the past business history of the individuals who will work with Nadra in London and the cities such as Bradford, Birmingham and Glasgow? Who are these people and who vetted them? Why some of the people overtaking Nadra/NICOP scheme have, between them, dissolved more than 30 companies? Did they only set up these companies to do business with Nadra? What did they do before?
What assurances have they provided to Nadra that they will not bankrupt or simply walk out of the deal? What is Nadra’s backup plan if these individuals walk out in the same manner as they did in the case of their previous businesses? Who will pick up the pieces and what if the national interest of Pakistan is damaged seriously and what happens to the innocent lives wrecked?
Until today, NICOP card has cost only £34, is it true that the new rate of NICOP card will be around £90? Why treble the fees? No offices have been set up as yet but did Nadra check why not? Isn’t it true that for Smart Card, the entry would be afresh and also the biometrics? What is the guarantee that company with dubious credentials would not pass on the biometrics and other details to other interested parties? Given the technological advancements such a possibility without anyone knowing about it is not beyond conception? Even if it’s believed that only Nadra personnel will look after Nadra entries and system, who will man the officers for security after 5pm?
Nadra, instead of issuing threats of action, needs to provide answers to these critical questions as these are the questions directly related to Pakistan’s short and long-term national security.