By Muhammad Javed
The Honourable Supreme Court has issued Notice that as to why an Overseas Pakistani (OPs) pays Rs. 15,000 (or perhaps Rs. 25,000 as I read in a letter to editor from an Overseas Pakistani) for his National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis (NICOP) while a Pakistani in the country for the same ID Card called CNIC pays Rs. 1500/-. Nadra submitted that it had to spend in maintaining its offices abroad.
- The issue can’t be understood unless the background of the NICOP is not refreshed. It was the قرض اتارو ملک سنواروera. Seeing never seen before charged emotional over enthusiasm of the OPs in contributing towards قرض اتارو ملک سنوارو, Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif called an Overseas Pakistanis Convention in I997 in Islamabad. Taking advantage of the emotional atmosphere, he offered the OPs everything they wished to buy (industry, projects etc) even to the extent of running Embassies abroad. Chairing the Convention, he claimed that the OPs whether holding Pakistani passports or foreign, were all “our” family members and the doors of their home (homeland Pakistan) are always open for them. However, soon this love affair showed it was just a money pulling technique. It is today proved beyond any reasonable doubt that Nawaz Sharif never wished or wishes to give anything to ordinary OP but only desires to snatch from them.
- Immediately after declaring in the Convention the OPs the family members, having sensed weight of the pockets of OPs, he immediately imposed the NICOP for these Pakistanis for entering their own homeland. His newly introduced NICOP was then for 3 years renewable on higher costs. This was the first occasion in the history of Pakistan, the Pakistani Embassies and Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly pleaded not to go further with this project. The argument given by Nawaz Sharif was that the authorities abroad can’t read the present Urdu language CNIC, hence needed an English version. It was just a fooling argument. I am since 33 years abroad. Not even once in any country, any foreign authority, had ever asked me to produce my Pakistani ID Card or even to know if I had one. Likewise during 33 years no authority in Pakistan has ever demanded from me my foreign country of residence ID Card or if I held one. This ploy of Nawaz Sharif was only a “money pulling” tactic.
- Realising how big source of huge regular income this NICOP had created, later another Pakistan Origin Card (POC) was introduced for the same earlier declared family members. Under this POC, those “family members” needed to surrender their Pakistani nationality first. For regular pulling out from Overseas family members, POC was for 7 years renewable. India, on the other hand, issued its Indian Origin Card for life. In our case, a POC in government files do had rights equal to one’s local Pakistani family member but a second class citizen. For example a POC holder can’t open, practically, a bank account in Pakistan. India, on its Indian Card, has categorically mentioned that the holder had all the rights equal to a local India except that the holder can’t buy agricultural land.
- This NICOP earlier was applied by submitting documents to the Pakistan Embassy concerned. Today, all this process is direct with NADRA Islamabad On Line eliminating any involvement of Pakistan Embassy. The ready NICOP, however, comes back to Pakistan Embassy who in turn without going through any paper work simply hands over the packet received from Islamabad to the local courier service for delivery to the card holder. The local courier charges are paid by the applicant in advance while applying. Hence in majority of the places there “today” is no involvement of any Pakistan Embassy or any NADRA office abroad. Hence NADRA’s stand today holds no good. It should, however, not be forgotten that when NICOP application was used to be submitted to the Pakistan Embassy, in additional to the NADRA prescribed high fees, the applicant also paid 10% additional to the Embassy in the name of so called community welfare fund. What was, in practical term, this community welfare? Somewhere in the old papers of this senior citizen might still be as a memento a clipping of an interview to the local leading newspaper by the then Community Welfare Officer Pakistan Embassy. He was shy that ready NICOPs were lying uncollected in his office some even since “five years”. This was the glare of “community service”. Since four or five years NICOPs remained uncollected and the so called community welfare officer or the Embassy for that purpose had no courtesy and concern for its national to pick up the phone and check if their national was in some disposition or in any trouble, even after having charged in advance 10% for this non visible community service.
- Whether the local CNIC or overseas NICOP, applications for both are received in Islamabad, processed in Islamabad and cards are made ready in Islamabad. The technology involved in processing from A to Z, time and the material consumption for the both is the same. Hence there is no logic for huge difference in fees. Having the application system gone On Line, there today also is practical no need whatsoever, as such, in keeping a few Nadra Offices abroad unless purpose is to provide foreign jobs or costly outsourcing business to some private company owned underhand by some unknown dear ones.
- Today’s civilized world recognizes the basic fundamental human rights and extremely hates any sort of discrimination on the basis of one’s religion, place of residence, colour. How wonder, then, that when our learned senior judges keep taking in their addresses about protection of basic rights, Nadra has fixed discriminatory Fees on the basis of one’s “pocket” and not on the universal basic principle of administration. For example, for Smart NICOP Reprint/Lost for OPs residing in some countries the Fee is Rs. 8,700 for living other countries for the same product is Rs. 16,300. For a new issuance like a Birth Certificate, an Arms License etc one pays full Fees. In case of issuance of duplicate thereof, the Fees are almost always less than the original. Here Nadra has kept in view the doctrine of Mian Nawaz Sharif to pull as much as possible from the OP Currency Machines . For cancellation of an item fees is exorbitant for non-logical reason. If, for example, I, as a local Pakistani, do not want to keep continue my CNIC/Smart Card, why would I pay Rs. 15,000 for its cancellation. Why not I let it expire and automatically lost its legal value.
- For cancellation double Fee, I think is as part of, in simple words, black mailing. I have so far not applied On Line but my next colleague tells me he father got Pakistan Origin Card (POC) when the Government introduced this card. The POC was introduced for those who had got a foreign nationality. The father got it as per rule and procedure. Now he needed to cancel it. For applying a cancellation, NADRA provided him a specimen-text of an Undertaking/Indemnity under which the father stated that he deliberate wrongly applied and got POC. It is same as many of the Black Coats have got their blank WAKALATNAMAS pre-printed under which his litigant client signs that in case the case was decided ex-parte due to nonattendance of the Advocate despite having charged in advance fully, he would not hold the advocate responsible for that.