By Waqas Bajwa –
The tale of a rudderless body which is moving adrift
Pakistan is the unique country of the world where people from every nook and corner of the globe could reside and refuge easily without fear of law.
This country has always remained safe haven for the illegal immigrants and more than 5 million illegal immigrants from 64 countries currently reside in Pakistan with a majority coming in from Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
Official figures of the Ministry of Interior suggest that at-least 20 plus colonies like Machar Colony, Ibrahim Haideri, Musa Colony, Sohrab Goth, Kunwari Colony, Sultan Abad and others are only in Karachi – the country’s economical hub and main port city.
These colonies of illegal immigrants are now become the no-go areas for the law enforcement agencies and the main centre of the crimes and terrorism also. These localities are the hideouts of all kinds of criminal elements, terrorists of banned local organizations like Talban, Lashar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and also international terrorist organizations like al-Qaida and others.
Most of these illegal immigrants have obtained Computerized National Identity Cards (CNIC) through some means and are involved in different businesses also. Foreigners take the advantage of the population’s heterogeneity, and they easily blend and mix in.
It is pertinent to mention here that Ministry of Interior has no proper data about the actual number of illegal immigrants in the country and the officials always depends upon the rough ideas and approximate figures.
According to the official figures of Ministry of Interior, Pakistan is currently carrying the burden of an estimated 3.35 million illegal migrants but according to the independent sources the number is above 5 million. These sources believe that out of these illegal immigrants 75% are settled in capital of Sindh province, Karachi.
Establishment of NARA and its objectives
After the realization about the presence and increasing number of these elements day by day, government of Pakistan decided to establish an institution for the registration and to keep a close eye on these elements and keep state institutions aware about their accurate statistics and, when required, take timely and proper action against them.
Resultantly NARA (National Aliens Registration Authority) was established in 2001 through Foreigners Amendment Ordinance 2000 to register aliens and allot alien registration cards, valid up to a year and can be extended.
The card exempts them from punishments under the Foreign Act 1946 and protects them from undue harassment from state agencies. It also gives them legal status; they can open bank accounts, mobile connections, vehicles and their licenses, receive education and utility connections. NARA also issues work permits to the aliens seeking employment.
NARA was an independent, autonomous, and constitutionally established institution of the Government of Pakistan under Ministry of Interior primarily responsible for legally registering the immigration process in the country. The NARA headquartered along with its all eight zonal offices established in Karachi, Sindh.
Story of failure
The Institute responsible for the registration of migrants till its merger in NADRA in July 2014 registered only 125,000 illegal migrants since it started work in 2002; it is pertinent to mention here that according to official figures number of illegal immigrants is above 5 million.
The officers of the Authority have many excuses for the failure of such important institution as one of responsible officer told Pique on the condition of anonymity: “We had less than a 100 people in our staff across the country and our field work was non-functional that’s why we have low performance.”
“The federal government had to establish a taskforce to ensure implementation of NARA’s rules which has not been formed yet. This is why we can’t launch operations to arrest illegal migrants and during the whole period registration process of illegal immigrants remained on voluntarily basis only,” the official added. “Sometimes, we find illegal migrants but we can’t force them to register themselves as we have no powers to arrest them or conduct raids in the city. We have to ask the police for help if we need to locate someone whose card validity date has expired but every time police remains careless”.
Apart from the views and observation of NARA official, it is a fact that the important institution has been shattered due to negligent and careless attitude of former two governments of Pervez Musharraf and PPPP and also due to the corruption, negligence, nepotism and incompetence of NARA set-up.
And thus a valuable institution NARA made for highly important and serious task abolished and merged to another Authority NADRA.On the other hand present Government of PML-N also remained sloppy on the issue instead of making reforms in the institution and make practical planning, government merged it in NADRA.
The staff especially officers hired for the highly sensitive and vital work for the registration of illegal immigrants all the time remained casual towards their main objectives. For example, one contract officer Syed Nayab Zaidi who was appointed as Data-Entry Programmer for the period of one year contract not only merged his services as permanent employee but with the collaboration of some officers of the Ministry of Interior got the charge of Deputy Director Administration ‘illegally’.
Owing to careless attitude towards the issue of NARA, no permanent Director General could be appointed in the Authority for the consecutive period of six years and Mr. Zaidi basically a computer programmer remained the head of the department.
According to sources within the organization, Nayab Zaidi broke the ‘all records of forgery and corruption’, he ‘misused and embezzled the funds’ of Authority and converted this highly important institution in a ‘family organization’ by appointing illegally his 19 relatives on the different posts without the sanction strength and managed to confirm 12 illegal appointees through fake correspondence of the Ministry of Interior and Establishment Division. It is worth-noting that a letter of Establishment Division to merge his other 7 relatives proved bogus and fake after verification of Director General Pakistan Revenue Karachi.
In only last five years at 20 plus people were illegally appointed on permanent basis to the National Alien Registration Authority Karachi head office on different grades. Sources said that the names of these appointees were illegally inducted in the daily-wage employees and then through fake correspondence of different federal departments including the Ministry of Interior they were confirmed.
These appointees are of close relatives of high-ups of NARA and officers working for the Interior Ministry. According to official documents available with Pique, NARA Administration Deputy Director Syed Nayab Hasan Zaidi, with the help of other NARA officers and an Interior Ministry officer, has illegally inducted the names of 20 people in the list sent to the Interior Ministry for confirmation and regularisation of services of the people.
It was declared in the letter that the 27 employees on the list had been working as daily-wage employees for past many years. Accountant General Office sources said that there is no record indicating any kind of payment made to the 12 illegal people for rendering any kind of service to NARA.
In a letter sent to the Interior Ministry on February 24, 2011, Zaidi listed the names of 15 employees working in NARA on daily wages for regularisation. After the passage of seven months, in connivance with NARA Assistant Director Muhammad Khan Lodhi, NARA Data Entry Operator Muhammad Imran and Interior Deputy Secretary Muhammad Khurshid, a letter was sent to the Interior Ministry on the same subject of regularisation of employees.
This time Zaidi illegally inducted the names of eight of his relatives as well as four relatives of his partners-in-crime to compensate them for aiding him in the illegal act.
Fakhar Raza was appointed as Accountant in Basic Pay Scale (BPS)-14, Adil Haider Zaidi as Cashier in BPS-9, Asif Raza as Upper Division Clerk in BPS-9, Asad Abbas as Lower Division Clerk (LDC) in BPS-7, SM Abidi as LDC in BPS-7, Rizwan Abbas as Field Supervisor in BPS-7, and Yasir Abbas and Ali Raza as Drivers in BPS-4.
These appointees are said to be close relatives of Zaidi, whereas the names of Muhammad Usman (son of Senior Auditor Muhammad Ali Arain), Billing Clerk Farhan Ramzan (brother of Imran), and Sufian Javed and Rameez Saeed (relatives of Lodhi) were illegally inducted into the list and they were later appointed as permanent employees, added the sources.
Due to the negligence and careless attitude as an important institution NARA was abolished and merged in National Database Registration Authority (NADRA). Now it is the test case for the NADRA to perform crucial job of registration of illegal immigrants.
When contacted, Mr Zaidi rebutted all charges of corruption and nepotism saying: “These employees had been regularized by the Khurshid Committee on Regularisation and nothing was done against rules and regulations.”
The writer is a journalist based in Karachi