In a speech in parliament in 1973, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the then Prime Minister of Pakistan stated, “due to the absence of full statistical database of the people of this country, this country is operating in utter darkness”. As a result, the government of Pakistan started working on a project to issue National Identity Cards [NICs] to the populace as well as started maintaining databases of information about them in digital form. This was so as to collect information about the citizens which would ultimately enable the government of Pakistan in making relatively effective and accurate decisions regarding their welfare.
NADRA’s Ancestral System Launched
The need for such a system was felt especially after the separation of the Eastern wing of the country in 1971. This was because much of the data of the citizens after the separation became outdated and inaccurate.
Therefore a paper based system of issuing Identity cards was initiated in 1973 and the ID cards were filled manually and issued to citizens.
What Kinds of Uses Can You Think of for an NIC?
A National identity card or NIC is an important requirement for every citizen of the world, including Pakistan, as it helps identify him for a number of different purposes in everyday life. The following are some of the most routine instances in which an identity card is required for Pakistani citizens:
- For opening a bank account
- To apply for a driver’s license
- For purchasing a cellular SIM
- To apply for utility connections [electric,water, gas]
- For purchase of land or vehicles
- To apply for admission into colleges and universities
- For conducting financial transactions [easypaisa etc.]
- For casting votes
- To apply for a passport
- For purchasing air or train tickets
It is also advised however that the CNIC copy be crossed with permanent ink and the purpose of its submission written in brief over it before submitting it for any purpose to ensure that it cannot be misused.
NADRA Finally in the Scene in Pakistan
NADRA is short for National Database and Registration authority. NADRA Pakistan was established back in March of 2000 for the purpose of digitizing all the information of all the citizens of the country in the form of Computerized National Identity Cards [CNICs]. The purpose of the establishment of NADRA was to replace the paper based system of issuance of NIC cards in operation since 1973. The aim was to introduce in its place a Multi-Biometric National Identity Card system which issued ID cards based on international standards.
Ever since its inception, NADRA has issued in excess of 96 million CNICs and continues to issue more to-date. All the CNICs issued comply with the ISO standard CNICs.
To perform this task, NADRA has in excess of eleven thousand [11,000] employees working in eight hundred  domestic offices and five  international offices.
All the information taken from applicants of identity cards is stored in secure databases inside of NADRA’s hard drives.
Since this information is very private in nature, therefore, NADRA claims to have put in a very secure layer to ensure utmost secrecy of this information such that privacy of any individual is not compromised.
NADRA claims that it holds a world record of successfully operating the largest biometric database of citizens anywhere on the face of Earth!
Applying For a CNIC
The process for applying to a CNIC from any of NADRA Pakistan offices nationwide however can be a headache to say the least! The queues are long, often with no covering overhead during summers. Not to mention the snail speed with which the queues move forward and so the time it would take you to complete registration for your CNIC at the office. Also, it is possible that you face an objection regarding any documentation and therefore after the long wait for your turn, you have to go back home and get the objections corrected. This is because there are no proper instructions displayed outside the offices about prepare your documents. This is so as to avoid making repeated trips to the NADRA offices because of objection on it by the NADRA staff. The staff at the counters give incomplete information as they are always in a hurry! Also, it is possible for the card to be delayed in being issued and hence available for collection from the NADRA office. There will also be no intimidation for you to collect your CNIC after it has been issued so you will have to keep calling and keep checking yourself!
Knowing How a CNIC Works
A simple description of how a CNIC works is that at the time of birth, a unique number of 13 digits is assigned to every child. This number is signed in a form called RG-2, better known as Form-B.
When the child reaches eighteen  years of age, the child becomes eligible for applying to a CNIC from NADRA Pakistan. Upon approval of his application, he is assigned an identity card and the same 13 digit number becomes his CNIC number.
In the 13 digits of the CNIC issued by NADRA, the first five  digits represent the locality, the following seven  numbers are serial digits, and the last one  is a check number.
Every CNIC has basic information about its holder printed over it, which is as follows:
- Identity Card Number
- Identification Mark
- Date of Birth
- Father’s or Husband’s Name
- ID for Family Tree
- Permanent Address
- Current Address
- Date of Issue of Identity Card
- Date of Expiry of Identity Card
It is also said that NADRA Pakistan also asks for every individual’s religion but does not show it on the identity card issued to the applicant.
Machine Readable Passports
NADRA Pakistan also holds the credit for introducing Machine Readable Passports [MRPs] in Pakistan. This is an advanced technology that allows passports to be scanned and read anywhere in the world with the help of machines instantly instead of being read manually by humans. These passports are similar to the CNICs issued by NADRA Pakistan which are all digital in nature and can be read with the help of bar-code readers. A large copy of the individual’s CNIC is printed on the back side of the front page of every MRP. NADRA Pakistan claims that it is the first organization in the world that started issuing Multi-Biometric Electronic passports to citizens ever.
What Are Smart National Identity Cards
Since October of 2012, NADRA has also started issuing Smart National Identity Cards [SNICs] to the Pakistani population now. The design of the SNICs is such that they have a data chip that stores all the relevant information about the card holder such as pension related info, contact details, et cetera.
Since the SNICs have a chip installed over them, therefore, they can neatly be used for both online as well as offline identification of the subject individuals.
In addition, they are said to be much more secure than CNICs as they have a total of thirty-six  security features which prevents them being used for fraudulent activities.
NADRA has planned to replace all the CNICs issued to-date with SNICs by 2020.
There are both sides to this planning aspect however; one is the angle of the population getting more secure and advanced cards as their CNIC cards into the future. This side is definitely positive as it can be a very good idea to have this cards with all the added features into them.
However, there is another perspective into it which relates to cost, hassle and time. The introduction of CNIC cards from the paper-based system was a positive step, that’s true. However, it also led to relatively higher costs, waste of time due to mismanagement of the entire process of digitization of individual records and also a lot of trouble for the applicants. So if another such process is initiated for the entire population of Pakistan, this time for SNICs instead of CNICs, then there would be a repeat of all that once again!
In addition, this way the trend would continue and would potentially become a regular exercise, making it all the more unnecessary. Some people also believe that it might be a way for minting funds for NADRA Pakistan, which is totally uncalled for.
So there can be mixed viewpoints on this intention of NADRA Pakistan to replace all CNICs with SNICs by 2010.
NADRA’s Services in Other Countries
Apart from creating a biometric system for issuance of CNICs in Pakistan, NADRA Pakistan has also been of service to other countries. This has most probably come out of the success that NARDA Pakistan has seen for its programs in Pakistan, news of which reached far away from the country. Resultantly, NADRA Pakistan was asked by foreign countries to help them out with their own process of registration required for several tasks. NADRA Pakistan has successfully completed the creation of the following systems for other countries:
- System for issuance of Passports in Kenya
- System for the issuance of High Security Driver’s License in Bangladesh
- Management System for civil registration in Sudan
Being asked to serve other countries based on excellent performance at home is definitely an accolade for NADRA Pakistan. This is surely good news for the company as well as for the country as it has helped improve the image of Pakistan the world over. It is also possible that more such clients approach NADRA Pakistan for registration requirements in their home countries. This would be as NADRA Pakistan continues to improvise on its working, its processes and adds to its experience continuously in documenting personal records.
NADRA Pakistan’s Foray Into the Corporate World
To add to this, NADRA Pakistan has also been involved in offering a number of solutions for corporate clients in Pakistan. There have been a number of corporate clients requiring registration of their workforce so as to help them manage their affairs better. Therefore, NADRA Pakistan has also made its mark in the corporate world in Pakistan as well, It has done this by helping the corporate organizations get more and more knowledgeable and disciplined in their work with the help of effective digital documentation done by NADRA Pakistan.
CNICs Preventing Identity Theft
As a result of the issuance of CNICs by NADRA Pakistan, the instances of identity theft have considerably been reduced in Pakistan. Previously, since the NICs issued in Pakistan were all manually written, therefore, it was very easy to forge them. As a result, a large number of fraud cases involving immigration, transfer deeds for plots and property etc. were recorded in the country.
As against this, the CNICs issued by NADRA Pakistan have a bar code imprinted on their back-side. This bar code is read by a bar code reader and makes the CNIC much more secure than manually written cards. Therefore, the instances of fraud have considerably been reduced because of this as well as associated features of the CNICs.
Facilitating Overseas Pakistanis
NADRA Pakistan on its part was also tasked with facilitating Pakistanis living overseas.
For the purpose a National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis [NICOP] cell was established in NADRA that had the responsibility of issuing identity cards to overseas Pakistanis. The NICOP therefore continues with its prime function of issuing these CNICs for overseas Pakistanis on a speedy basis so that they can identify themselves as well as vote for local politicians when they are outside of Pakistan.
There are two  different zones for which the NICOP is issued, namely Zone A and Zone B.
- Zone-A includes the United Kingdom and the United States.
- Zone-B include the Middle East and Gulf Countries.
An NICOP is a now a must-have for all dual-nationality holders as well as other Pakistanis living abroad, apart from allowing overseas Pakistanis to cast votes or identity themselves easily. The card issued to Pakistanis living in the US is referred to as a Pakistan Origin Card [POC] instead of an NICOP. In addition. This card is required for all family members living outside of Pakistan whether or not they are eighteen  years of age.
The Electoral Rolls Don’t Have to be Hard
Electoral rolls are lists of voters which are eligible to cast votes in any constituency. If an individual is eligible to cast votes and has a valid CNIC but his name is not on the electoral list then he would be unable to cast his vote come election time.
As part of helping out the Election Commission of Pakistan [ECP] therefore, NADRA Pakistan was tasked with creating a list of all the eligible voters in every constituency so the votes casted can be verified for originality after counting.
For purposes of this exercise, NADRA Pakistan created a paid SMS service for all Pakistanis to enable them to verify their votes while sitting at home. A SMS with the CNIC number sent to  is replied with the following info:
- Verified CNIC number from NADRA
- Electoral area of the sender, i.e. the city, town, village, district or tehsil, whichever applicable
- Serial Number
- Block Code
Issuance of Birth Certificates
NADRA is also responsible for issuing birth certificates, commonly known as Form-B, to all individuals below the age of eighteen .
Initially, the birth certificates were also issued manually just like NICs, but they have since been computerized and hence referred to as such, computerized birth certificates.
The registration form for applying to Form-B can be downloaded from NADRA’s website www.nadra.gov.pk and submitted to NADRA Pakistan for further processing. A 13-digit code is allotted for each birth certificate and the form serves as the identity of the individual until he reaches 18 years of age at which the Form-B expires.
The individual then has to apply for a CNIC from NADRA Pakistan for all his verification related needs. The same 13-digit number is allotted to him when an individual’s Form-B is replaced with a CNIC however.
Down With the Un-Elected Fraudster
Ex-NADRA Chairman Tariq Malik came into the limelight in the aftermath of the May 2013 elections. This happened after all of the political parties of the country including the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, accused the Pakistan Muslim League of rigging the May 2013 elections in Pakistan.
Muslim League emerged as the ultimate beneficiary and winner of the controversial elections of 2013 in Pakistan. After Tenhreek-e-Insaf demanded a verification of the votes casted in the May 2013 elections, the Chairman NADRA Tariq Malik was fired by the ruling Muslim League government without any charge against him!
This was after ex-chairman NADRA Pakistan Tariq Malik had initiated a campaign to verify the votes casted in the 2013 elections within NADRA. There was and still is a clear understanding in the minds of the people who Tariq Malik was fired so that he could not verify the bogus votes casted in the May 2013 elections, to help the ruling party keep onto the reins of highest power and authority in Pakistan.
Cunning Bosses Abusing Authority
It was reported in the press that he received a call at night and was asked to travel from his office in Islamabad to Lahore urgently via Islamabad-Lahore Motorway at 1 AM in the night. Upon his arrival and subsequent meeting, he was told that he is being dismissed!
Tariq Malik moved court against the decision of the Interior Ministry to fire him and was successfully restored by the court to his position as Chairman of NADRA Pakistan.
However, the duel between Tariq Malik and the government did not end there as there were strong reports in media throughout Pakistan of a lot of pressure being built on him. He was being pressurized indirectly by unknown people, threatening him and his family.
It was the talk of the town everywhere in Pakistan that the threatening calls and message he was receiving were from the goons of Muslim League as the party is well-known to have such assets in the country.
In addition to this, as part of pressure tactics, an official inquiry was initiated against him in the name of ascertaining why a large sum of money was misappropriated in NADRA Pakistan under his management. The enquiry had the only motive in actuality: Of pressurizing him to leave…..or else!
Tariq Malik’s Resignation
Unable to take this pressure and succumbing to it however, Tariq Malik resigned as Chairman of NADRA Pakistan and sent his resignation letter to the Interior Ministry on Friday, the 10th of January 2014 which was approved with open-arms by the Ministry!
Tariq left the country two months after his resignation and resides in the US ever since. However, Tariq immediately went to the press to disclose the events befalling him and his family and the circumstances leading to his resignation. He disclosed a number of internal secrets of the government about how he was pressurized to stop the authentication of votes casted in the 2013 General Elections and then how he was forced to resign after being reinstated by the court.
After he started disclosing facts about the government however, arrest warrants were issued against him even through the government knew that he has left Pakistan. The reason given for the issuance of the warrants as claimed by the government was the disclosing of official facts by the ex-chairman NADRA Pakistan constituted a crime! The real intention however was to harass his family so as to give him a shut-up call.
New Designation as Government Whistleblower
However, Tariq still interacts with the media and gives them facts and figures against the government and has delightfully not resigned from performing this duty, to-date. His most recent interaction with the media was on the 7th of May 2015 in the program Muqabil on 92news TV channel.