Lahore: Mohammad Sharif lives in the United States and is a US national. The government of Pakistan has issued National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis (NICOP) to facilitate him in Pakistan. Until last year, using NICOP was not an issue. Sharif had used it to open a bank account, to buy cellular phone connection and to accomplish other transactions. This year the biometric machines refused to read the NICOP of both Sharif’s and his son Hamza’s.
The staff at a bank told him that every NICOP holder was facing the same problem.
On visiting the National Database and Registration Authority’s (NADR) Defense office in Lahore, Sharif, was informed that the government was creating new software to read NICOP and that the existing software had been suspended.
“Neither could I open up bank account nor could make any transactions. I had to get my son’s account opened which was not possible as well,” said Sharif. I am going back without accomplishing much,” Sharif said with a heavy heart.
According to media reports NADRA has been issuing fake identity cards, causing processing delays and more recently putting in jeopardy the NICOP holder overseas Pakistanis.
When News Lens Pakistan contacted the Islamabad NADRA office for further confirmation about the new software, NADRA’s Spokesperson Muhammad Faiq said that the news is misleading, and no such software has been under contemplation. When asked as to how the problem faced by the NICOP holders should be solved, Faiq said, “They should get new NICOP.”
Assistant Director, Mohammad Razzaqi, at NADRA’s Abbott Road Branch, Lahore, told a different story to News Lens Pakistan. He said the thumb impressions taken previously for the NICOPs were not registered in the database. Therefore, all those cards are now considered obsolete. Unlike Faiq, he said a new software had been launched, and the NICOP holders would now have to apply for new cards. The charges for the new NICOP would be Rs 10,000, Razzaqi informed.
When News Lens sought a reply from Muhammad Faiq about the discrepancy in his and Razzaqi’s statement he refused to answer.
NADRA is considered one of the best databases internationally, however, rampant corruption in the country stained this institution as well.
Administrative issues apart, the behavioral problem of the officers at NADRA adds stress to the already tormented customers visiting the NADRA offices.
Ayesha Khawaja, a housewife, had to get her NIC rectified from the NADRA office, the experience according to Khawaja was too traumatic.
“My encounter with the staff member, who was processing my papers, was not good either. She was cold and indifferent as if she was granting me a personal favor,” said Khawaja.
News Lens Pakistan talked to the psychologist Altaf Bashir, Head of Psychiatry Department in General Hospital Lahore to understand why government officials in Pakistan display rude behavior.
“There could be many reasons for this, but four are most prominent. One, we do not give on-job training that is focused on behavior management to the officials; our entire emphasis remains on the technical part of the training that too, at times, is not done professionally.”
“Two, apparently there is no mechanism of reward and punishment linked to the output of an officer’s professional duties. Three, we do not create a relationship between customers and the officers concerned through a system of feedback and suggestions. Four, we give a partially functioning environment to the workers,” said Bashir.
Further sharing her experience about the glitches, Khawaja said, “I observed two glaring technical issues hindering and slowing down work at NADRA’s Abbot Road office. The internet was too slow, and the intranet kept shutting down, with the result that the password had to be re-entered every other minute by the administrator. It also upsets the officers.”
A parliamentary committee having representations of all political parties is being set up to address people’s problems regarding Computerized National Identity Cards (CNICs). The Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan announced the constitution of the committee on August 15.
Experts are of the opinion that unless things are changed on ground committees would make little or no difference in the performance.