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Passport and digital ID card scandal unravels in Pakistan

Passport and digital ID card scandal unravels in Pakistan
 

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has conducted a secret operation that involved giving Afghan individuals fake passports from Pakistan, in a revelation reported by ARY News. The high-ranking officials of the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) and the Passport Immigration Office are involved in the scandal, which has shocked the country.

The FIA registered two cases against 98 individuals, and 16 of the offenders who issued false passports and Computerized National Identity Cards (CNICs) were taken into custody. The complex network of betrayal and corruption at the center of this scandal is being investigated by the FIA.

The Pakistani government declared in October 2023 that it would detain and remove hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrant nationals, including Rohingya people from Myanmar, Uyghurs from China, and Afghan refugees. This decision, which was scheduled to go into effect on November 1, 2023, had a particular impact on the 1.7 million or so Afghan refugees living in Pakistan, many of whom had escaped persecution and violence in their own country. These refugees, some of whom had spent decades living in Pakistan, were in danger of being forcibly evacuated, which would have left them homeless and without a means of support. Additionally, there are worries about the safety of marginalized communities in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, including the Hazara Shia community and religious minorities.

Arrests unveil network of corruption and collusion

Following major advancements in its investigation, the FIA has managed to arrest sixteen individuals, including seven officers from Passport Immigration and NADRA. The fact that four NADRA personnel and three Assistant Directors from Passport Immigration are among the detainees exposes the corruption of these organizations. Five employees illegally issued Pakistani national ID cards to non-natives, according to an investigation conducted in conjunction with the FIA and NADRA. Under Sections 28 and 29 of the NADRA Ordinance 2000, the results have been sent to the FIA’s Anti-Corruption Circle for potential legal action.

Uncovering the operational tactics

Operating on a global scale, the criminal group was responsible for providing Afghan citizens with fake passports from Pakistan. Illicit activities commenced in 2019 or 2020, beginning in the NADRA Mega Center Blue Area of Islamabad. The accused registered Afghan people in their family trees and obtained biometric information from Ehsaas program workers illegally. The integrity of Pakistan’s passport system has been damaged by this misuse of official channels for private benefit, which also poses a serious risk to national security. Travel agencies and politicians were implicated in a fraud that made it possible for people to pay to travel with the Pakistani contingent.

The collateral damage and path to justice

Beyond the boundaries of bureaucratic corruption, this scandal has far-reaching effects. The illegitimate purchase of Pakistani passports and CNICs by non-citizens has resulted in the accumulation of money and property, leading to significant inflation and destabilizing the real estate market.

The FIA says it is not stopping at any obstacles in its pursuit of justice as the inquiry progresses. The stakes are higher than ever because this controversy involves prominent members of the administration and the political elite. Restoring trust in Pakistan’s institutions depends critically on the government’s commitment to eliminating corruption and punishing those responsible for their actions.

Pakistan’s government is working towards the issuance of biometric passports with embedded computer chips later this year.

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