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September 17, 2019

Price for serving Pakistan

Top Story

September 17, 2019

ISLAMABAD: In United States, he has been named among top 100 digital influencers. In World Bank, he is part of 10-member influential Technical Expert Group. In United Nations, he is Chief Technical Adviser.

But, in Pakistan, he was a proclaimed offender, his identity card was blocked and his name was put on the Exit Control List (ECL). He faced courts and investigation agencies for five years and on false charges fabricated only because the government had turned against him.

Tariq Malik is a classic case to explain how the system deals with a person when fallen out of favour. From 2008 to 2014, he served at different executive positions in National Data & Registration Authority (Nadra) rising to the rank of chairman. In December 2013, he was sacked by PML-N government after he started verification of voters’ thumb impressions on the order of Election Commission of Pakistan. A senior minister of the previous government had also turned against him.

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But, as he challenged unceremonial removal two years before the expiry of his term, Islamabad High Court delivered a hard-hitting verdict terming it a “case of victimisation” and had him restored. Then, days in and day out, his family started receiving threats. Tariq subsequently resigned in January 2014. This was the time when PTI had staged sit-in on rigging allegations. Imran Khan, then opposition leader, lauded his courage and lambasted PML-N for harassing government servants.

Meanwhile, Tariq left for the United States where he resumed the IT firm he had worked with in the past. But his departure failed to end his ordeals. The government planned to make him an example. An FIR was registered with FIA that accused him of concealing his Canadian citizenship when he had applied for National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis (NICOP) well before 2008.

Being a dual national was neither a disqualification to do government service in Pakistan nor this information was demanded by Data Entry Operator while processing his NICOP application.

Worse still, he was not informed about the registration of FIR. Four years later in 2018, he came to know about it when his NICOP was expired and he applied for the reissuance. Another shock followed. Nadra, the organisation he headed, told him that his NICOP had been blocked in 2014 when he was declared Proclaimed Offender (PO). For what? He asked. Tariq was told that an FIR was registered and the court proceeding started that he didn’t attend to offer his defence thus made PO. Upon inquiring about the complainant, he was informed that “state” is complainant against him. Tariq had in past was cleared by ISI and IB for Nadra job.

Returning for appearance before the court was highly unwise. History is witness to the fact how people are persecuted when out of power. He waited for the regime change. In 2018, PTI formed the government and Tariq decided to visit the homeland. Moreover, because his father was sick and he wanted to inquire after him. Then a new reality dawned on him.

The ruling party leaders who were admirer of his integrity in the past ordered putting him on Exit Control List. Tariq was nevertheless determined to make a comeback. He went to Pakistani Embassy in Washington to apply for visa on Canadian passport as he could not travel on Pakistani passport since NICOP was blocked.

The embassy said it could not grant visa to a proclaimed offender. “Case against me is in Pakistan that I can’t defend in an American court therefore let me go so I could contest,” he asked the visa officer. Answer was in the negative. He wrote to the secretaries of Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Interior repeating the same request. No answer. Finally, Tariq decided to travel on the UN’s diplomatic passport, which did not require any visa. However, before coming to Pakistan, he secured protective bail from Islamabad High Court.

Upon arrival, he presented himself before the court. As his turn came, the judge asked about his presence and he responded without addressing “My Lord” and was reprimanded for not knowing the manner to appear before the court. However, he was granted bail. Meanwhile, his case proceeded in the district court where the judge cleared him but the matter remained inconclusive. It was only late Friday that his case has been concluded in his favour with FIA admitted that he didn’t comment any offence punishable and DG Passport also confirmed so.

After going through this trouble for five years, where Tariq is happy on his honorable acquittal, he wondered what action would be taken against those who were responsible for filing frivolous case against him. “I have been vindicated once again but the process of obtaining justice is a punishment in Pakistan. Why is there no punishment for the complainant who framed frivolous and false charges, which are proved wrong in court of law?” he asks.

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