While talking about the initiative to re-verify all Computerised National Identity Cards (CNIC), Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar claimed that, “This is the most difficult challenge, but I will do it as I had done [the] biometric verification of SIMs despite facing hardships”. Based on his determinism and self-congratulatory tone, one would expect a well-thought out and diligently executed plan of action for the re-verification drive. Yet his explanation of the plan not only seemed overly simplistic, but woefully inadequate – an opinion that was shared by the majority of the Senate on Friday.

Chaudhry Nisar plans to send an SMS to the registered ‘family heads’ across Pakistan, listing the members of their family that are registered with NADRA. If the information is correct, the person has to do nothing else; if someone extra has been registered the family head will be asked to approach the nearest NADRA office. That is the extent of the “most difficult” re-verification drive envisioned by the Interior Minister.

Even a layman can observe – and the Senate surely did – that the government is taking none of the responsibility for re-verification; instead it has shifted the burden on to the population. If not replying to the SMS is considered assent to the information, how many millions will be falsely verified because the recipients just didn’t bother. Millions don’t own cell phones, millions are illiterate, and millions will just ignore the message like they ignore dozens of routinely generated ‘official’ messages every day. And of the few that received, read and understood the message, how many will actually go to a NADRA office on their own resources, out of their own time?

But that isn’t even the most problematic aspect. As the Senate pointed out, this would only open more avenues for corruption. Those who had obtained CNICs through illegal means can simply pay off officials or the related ‘family head' again to not disclose the information. What about those illegal recipients of CNICs that are registered as family heads themselves, why should they disclose their own illegality?

The only incentive given by the Ministry is positively mortifying; a 10,000 rupee reward for the person who identifies foreign nationals holding Pakistani CNICs. Almost every single Senator was concerned how this would start a witch-hunt against Pashtuns, who are already heavily racially profiled if they wear a turban and have a beard. Turning neighbours on each other will only increase social friction.

The brainchild of Chaudhry Nisar is shot full of loopholes. The Interior Minister must realise that he cannot make the common people do his job. If a re-verification drive must be done, it has to be done properly; i.e conducted through a hands-on approach by the Interior Ministry and departments like NADRA and Passport and Immigration. This job requires some legwork – sending SMSs from the comfort of an office will not cut it.