When Mullah Mansour was killed on May 22, bearing a Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC) declaring him a citizen of Pakistan under the name of Wali Muhammad, valid questions were raised over the competence of the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA). Many felt that the system of giving out CNICs should be updated and secured, especially in the background cross-border terrorist attacks, and a large refugee and Integrally Displaced Persons (IDP) population.

The Interior Ministry however, launched a project aiming to re-verify all CNIC’s through the family trees of 25 million households. The initiative to re-verify CNICs was hailed as a great idea, one that could essentially solve several security related issues – but even at this initial phase many felt that the Interior Minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali had bitten off more than he could chew.

This concern became more acute when the Ministry unveiled it’s plan for this drive. Loosely modeled on the biometric verification of mobile SIMs initiative – where users received a text message – the plan seemed wholly inadequate for the task ahead. It operated on several untenable assumptions: every household head has a mobile phone, he or she is literate and can read and understand the message, and will take out the time to reply, and that everyone would respond honestly even if they are the ones misrepresenting their identity. The plan was flawed, catered to only a fraction of the population, and relied solely on volunteer effort from the citizens. Considering the gravity of the incident that sparked this drive, a more comprehensive plan was expected.

Yet even this bare bones initiative is now facing trouble. According to NADRA sources, around 0.7 million text messages have been received at the 8008 short code ever since the re-verification drive was launched on July 1. However, only 400,000 citizens have received a positive reply so far. Ill planning meant that only those using SIMs officially registered with their CNIC could receive a positive response, while the records of many others were simple unavailable.

Institutional infighting between the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) and NADRA - who don’t trust each other with the confidential data on millions of citizens – has further stalled the project. While the Interior Ministry says that it will solve these problems and get the project up and running soon, it can’t be denied that a worthy idea has been killed by bad implementation.

The re-verification drive is great in theory, but unless the Interior Ministry allocates more resources to it and takes a more hands-on approach, the ambitious project will end up being a little too ambitious.