Pakistan ID agency head resigns, citing ‘polarized political environment’
The chairman of Pakistan’s digital ID agency NADRA, Tariq Malik, has resigned from his position in the wake of a leak of data relating to the family of a senior army official, Dawn reports, and sensational accusations against Malik in a government committee meeting.
Malik had terminated several NADRA employees and filed for criminal proceedings against them in response to the leak.
Asad Rehman Gilani, a veteran civil servant and secretary of Pakistan’s Board of Investment, has been appointed as his replacement, writes Geo News.
Malik had urged the government to replace him with an individual with a professional technical background, rather than a serving or retired bureaucrat.
Gilani said he would continue to pursue easier access to public services through NADRA, and directed department heads to work extra hours to clear a backlog in ID card printing.
Malik had one year left on his three-year term. He emphasized the contributions made to Pakistan’s development by NADRA during his two stints leading the agency. He was reappointed to lead NADRA in 2021 after serving as a chief technical advisor to the UNDP.
“I find it increasingly difficult to work in a charged and polarised political environment. It is difficult for any professional to maintain his integrity and independence in an environment that constantly pigeon-holes people in an ‘us versus them’ logic and where political loyalty is privileged over competence,” Malik wrote in a resignation letter reported by Dawn.
A letter from an anonymous NADRA employee was read at a recent meeting of Pakistan’s Public Account Committee, accusing Malik of favoritism in the appointment of several agency officials. Malik and those officials then conspired to siphon 14 billion Pakistani rupees (approximately US$49 million) from smart card and tablet contracts, the letter alleged, according to Aaj English TV.
Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency notified Malik on May 19 of an investigation into the award of a “contract to a favoured international company at an expensive price.” The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) also contacted Malik on June 6 to collect records on the $3.5 million in payments related to the integration of the iris biometrics by NADRA, The Express Tribune writes. The FIA has also reportedly issued a travel ban to prevent Malik from leaving the country.
Malik tweeted on June 16 that “fictitious and fabricated statements” have been attributed to him, and counter-factual analyses put forward “by various circles” regarding the situation.
Pakistan’s political situation is characterized by the United States Institute of Peace as one of “deepening domestic polarization.”