Pakistani political ‘hecklers’ threatened with blocked biometric ID, bank accounts
Pakistan’s Interior Minister has warned that supporters of recently-ousted prime minister Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party whose behavior can be considered heckling or harassment will have their biometric identity cards blocked and therefore be unable to operate their bank accounts, reports The Nation.
The political situation has since deteriorated, with large groups of Khan’s supporters threatening to “take over,” reports the BBC. Meanwhile the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) is working with all political parties to secure their help in reaching more people to register for the biometric national ID – the Computerized National Identity Card (CNIC). This is with a particular emphasis on maintaining the electoral roll.
Threat to block dissenters’ passports via freedom of movement legislation
Newsweek Pakistan reported that Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan also claimed that individuals could have their passports blocked and even be arrested, after being found via Pakistan’s ID system, using Freedom of Movement legislation to ensure victims can go about their lives.
The minister also took to Twitter calling for people to capture and submit identifiable video of any heckling from PTI supporters to the Federal Investigation Agency’s Cyber Crime Wing.
He urges people to submit identifiable video, especially if members of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) are victims of harassment.
Blocking CNICs would be highly detrimental. The biometric ID is used for accessing services and bank accounts and registering SIM cards. Police and then court proceedings would have to be established in order to commit NADRA to blocking the ID account. An individual would have to go to the courts to then authorize NADRA to remove any block. Case law has demonstrated that NADRA itself cannot block or unblock a card on its own.
Newsweek and The Nation believe the statements were made following the harassment of Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal and family were harassed at a motorway service station restaurant.
Supporters of Imran Khan and his party chant slogans at PML-N officials such as “corrupt and thieves.”
Behavior deemed heckling is not confined to Pakistan. The new prime minister Shahbaz Sharif was heckled in the Madinah by Pakistani pilgrims in April, reported Gulf Today, leading to arrests for violating the regulations and sanctity of the mosque.
Since the Interior Minister made these claims, former prime minister, Imran Khan has been charged under the terrorism act, reports the BBC, after he condemned the police and judiciary in a public speech on 20 August. Authorities deemed his speech a threat against certain officials.
Khan’s supporters have been gathering around his house in large numbers and vow to “take over” if Khan is arrested. TV stations have been banned from carrying his speeches. Khan made another speech on 21 August where he criticized the ban. He later further denounced what he considered to be the authorities blocking YouTube halfway through his rally that day.
NADRA works with all parties to reach marginalized groups
In recent weeks NADRA has been working with multiple political parties to seek their assistance in reaching marginalized groups who have not come forward to enroll for then national ID, the CNIC, reports the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP).
Pakistan has 152 political parties, according to the APP. NADRA Chairman Tariq Malik has written to the heads of all parties and has begun meeting representatives, along with Election Commission representatives. NADRA’s achievements were discussed.
Malik asked in his letters for party leaders to share their experiences and recommendations for how the NADRA database can be effectively used for strengthening electoral rolls and other e-governance projects.
Many were taken by surprise when in July, Khan’s PTI party took control of a crucial provincial assembly, according to the BBC. The PML-N had anticipated an easy win. The victory is seen as an indication of the strength of support for Khan and what may happen if there is an early election, as he has called for.
Malik has briefed participants on the Election Commission process to prepare electoral rolls the steps taken to make sure it is transparent and error free. “Such objectives can only be achieved through inclusive registration of citizens with active support from all political stakeholders,” states the APP, apparently paraphrasing the chairman.
NADRA will meet all political parties in turn. In sessions to date, party representatives have presented suggestions on improving the registration of women and other marginalized groups such as transgender constituents.
The ID agency is committed to dispatch more mobile registration units.