Monday April 22, 2024

Nadra finalises probe into illegal access to COAS family’s data

The prime minister had an investigation launched into the data leak

By Azaz Syed
April 02, 2023
COAS Gen Asim Munir. — ISPR/File
COAS Gen Asim Munir. — ISPR/File

ISLAMABAD: The National Database Registration Authority (NADRA), the custodian of Pakistan’s largest registered citizen database, is set to finalize an inquiry identifying those behind a data leak involving the incumbent Army Chief Gen Asim Munir’s family. The illegally-accessed information was reportedly used in an attempt to block the appointment of the current army chief last November. Multiple sources familiar with the data leak shared details with The News.

In October 2022, five senior Lt-Generals were contending for the position of Pakistan’s new army chief. During this time, a junior data entry operator at NADRA, Farooq Ahmed, allegedly accessed the data of a female family member of Gen Asim Munir Shah and collected the family’s details and identity card numbers.

This data was later used in the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) Integrated Border Management System (IBMS) to track the international travel destinations of the family.

The prime minister had an investigation launched into the data leak.

As a result, Farooq Ahmad (Junior Executive), Rehman Butt (Deputy Director), Rasheed Ahmed (Assistant Director), Saif Ullah (Deputy Assistant Director), Sajid Sarwar (Assistant Superintendent), and M Ali (Deputy Assistant Director) were suspended, and an inquiry was ordered by Chairman NADRA Tariq Malik.

Initially, the inquiry was supervised by retired Brigadier Khalid Latif, who was later found to be a close aide of Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, one of the accused contenders. Latif was subsequently replaced by senior officer Ali Javaid due to a conflict of interest. Ali Javaid is known as a reputable officer.

During the inquiry, two NADRA officers, Khalid Anayatullah and Amir Bukhari, were identified as the key players behind the data access. Both officers allegedly named close relatives of the contenders as those requesting the data.

The ongoing inquiry is expected to soon expose the real faces within NADRA involved in this saga. However, the actual masterminds behind the officers might not face public punishment. A top NADRA official confirmed the inquiry without revealing any names, citing the sensitivity of the issue and the investigation’s ongoing nature.

It should be noted that the six junior staffers of the organization have still not been restored to their positions. Furthermore, recently, Brigadier (retd) Khalid Latif and three other military personnel were given an opportunity to resign.

In the light of the ongoing inquiry, one of the top NADRA officials requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue and refused to name any top official, stating that he cannot say anything as the inquiry is still underway.