Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali’s most recent project, the re-verification of Computerised National Identity Cards (CNIC) seems to be yielding its first batch of results. According to a ministry handout, some 1,685 ‘aliens’ or non-Pakistanis have voluntarily returned Pakistani CNICs, while the rest of the re-verification drive is going smoothly. Is it time to pat the Interior Ministry on the back?

The problem is that while clear gains have been made in this drive there are some gaps that need to be addressed. Wildly conflicting reports are emerging on the scale of its success in identifying foreigners with Pakistani CNICs. Additionally, several parties from the Khyber Pakhtunkhawa, such as Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), have contended that the National Database and Registration Authority’s (NADRA) has allegedly cancelled the CNICs of several genuine Pakistanis too – including, interestingly, Mahmood Khan Achakzai’s sister.

The spontaneity of these complaints suggest that the problem of mistaken cancellation is a real one, and one that can be the source of great hardship for many. Unless a simple method to correct mistaken cancelations is instituted, many Pakistanis are at the risk of being treated like illegal aliens. With a general election looming in the future, such discrepancies will hurt the fairness of the election process.

More so than the numbers however, we must look to the supplementary actions to the drive to gauge its success. Again the reports on the ranks and exact number is conflicting, but apparently NADRA has identified 18 of its employees who have been involved in the fraudulent practice of providing CNICs to foreigners on a large scale, and will eventually be charged. Even if the numbers don’t add up, the increased vigilance surrounding the issuance of CNIC’s is surely welcome, and something that will go a long way.