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Nadra’s role in national identity perspective


January 23, 2018

National identity is not instinctive nor an inborn trait rather it is socially constructed. It is the collective sense of the nation as whole, as we identify around our common social values, formed by language, religion, culture and traditions. National identity is viewed in psychosocial terms as “an awareness of difference”, a feeling and recognition of ‘we,’ rather than that of ‘me’ or the individual. Consequentially, these sentiments instill a sense of patriotism in an individual.

For centuries now, the existence of nation-states has been a by-product of intellectual discoveries in political economy, capitalism, geography and in the context of Pakistan, a nationalist movement based on the pursuit of sovereignty or freedom from oppression. As the world population is ever-increasing, immigration and migration of people have led to increased discourse on the topic of national identity and borders. Globalisation in the spheres of trade, economics and communication has also revived discussions on the topic of national identity, as we sought to retain national identity whilst co-existing in a globalised world.

In an effort to maintain an effective record of their citizens, nations have long since developed effective tools such as modern database in order to protect and secure the fundamental rights of citizens, in particular, their access to public services. Educational institutions have even offered specialised degrees in the field of identity management systems, such as the Leicester University (UK) which has a faculty for Identity Management and Security.

In 1973, in a parliamentary session, late prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto stated to the people of Pakistan, “due to the absence of full statistical database of the people of this country, this country is operating in utter darkness”. National registration authority was established through an enactment. The first national identity card was issued by the authority to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. With the passage of time, the national ID card has become a de-facto necessity for meaningful civic life in Pakistan.

Primarily, the national ID card was to serve the purposes of opening and operation of bank accounts, obtaining a passport, purchasing vehicle and lands, obtaining a driver licence, purchasing travel tickets, obtaining Mobile SIM cards, securing admission in educational institutions, conducting major financial transactions and proving the pedigree and parentage of individuals.

National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) was established on March 10, 2000 by merging Directorate General of Registration Pakistan; a department created under the 1973 Constitution, with the National Database Organisation (NDO), an attached department under the Ministry of Interior, Government of Pakistan created for the 1998 census.

Nadra launched the Multi-Biometric National ID Card project developed in conformance with international security documentation issuance practices in the year 2000. The paper based national ID card was transformed into computerised national ID card or CNIC.

Nadra has since introduced revolutionary changes and adopted modern scientific knowledge, methods and application which are contributing its major role in economy discipline, security and national identification by the virtuosity of its Chairman Usman Yousaf Mobin. The current chairman earned his Cambridge University A-Level from Aitcheson College Lahore in 1997 by setting a record of winning three Gold medals. Mr Mobin went abroad to pursue advance education and earned his degree in Bachelor of Science in Computer Sciences and Engineering Cryptography and Cryptanalysis from the world renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States. He then earned a Masters Degree in Electrical Engineering and computer science from the same institution, graduating with a stellar GPA. Almost since its inception, Usman Mobin served as the Chief Technological Officer (CTO) and was the chief architect in designing the modern Nadra database as we see it today. Mobin has played a key role in the transformation of the organisation from a small technology base with outsourced operations, to one of the most highly reputed identity management systems in the world with complete self-sufficiency in the management and development of its technology.

Nadra is exporting its technology to the rest of the world and thus earning foreign exchange. In this respect chairman Nadra located venues for its exports and led the design and development of Sudan’s complete Civil Registration Programme; Nigeria’s Identity Management System; Kenya’s passports; and Bangladesh’s Drivers Licences. Recently, he played a key role in winning the Election Management System (EMS) contract for the government of Fiji.

Nadra is playing a key role in the delivery of social services and administrative activities of the state. During the last decade, Nadra has facilitated the secure disbursement of government funds to the most vulnerable members of our society. Most recently, for the Benazir Debit Card (BDC), Nadra identified thousands of poverty-stricken families affected by high inflation rates. Over 14 million cards processed since 2013 to help improve the purchasing power of the poor.

Similarly, UNHCR (Afghan Refugee Registration) cards have been introduced to identify Afghan refugees. Vehicle Registration Smart Cards with Excise and Taxation Office (ETO Islamabad). Computerisation of arms licences in Sindh, Punjab and federal territory by issuance of genuine licences and location of bogus one.

Implementation of Kissan Relief Package in Balochistan by verifying eligibility of beneficiaries and disbursement of grants through biometric verification of eligible people. There are many other fields wherein Nadra has provided assistance to the state.

Nadra has become an important state-organ in the administrative affairs of the state and is contributing widely in the spheres of national development.

The primary function of the Nadra is to issue a Pakistani national ID card which it is doing through one window operation without any obstruction and obstacle throughout the country and abroad.