ISLAMABAD - Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan yesterday said that Nadra has identified as many as 200,000 fake CNICs, which was a matter of grave concern giving its implications for the national security .

Most of these 0.2 million fake CNICs (computerised national identity cards), discovered during the ongoing re-verification drive were issued to foreigners, he told a press conference at National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) Headquarters.

"This is a big figure which shows that there was ingress in the national database and the national security is compromised," the minister said.

Speaking to media after chairing a meeting on the six-month CNICs verification campaign, he said 50,000 fake cards had been blocked while another 10,000 sent to the intelligence agencies for further verification.

Nisar said 18 Nadra employees had been found involved in this dirty business and some them had been arrested, though he did not explain how just 18 people could issue 200,000 fake CNICs without being ever noticed.

"For the first time in the country, 2,100 foreigners have “voluntarily surrendered” their (illegally obtained) Pakistani nationality during this drive," he said.

Obtaining nationality through illegal means is an unforgivable offense in almost all countries in the world, but Nadra offered a deal - on the pattern of NAB’s plea bargain – to surrender their illegally attained nationality and go scot-free.

Nadra started the re-verification of identity cards on the directions of Interior Ministry after the death of Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour in Balochistan in a drone strike while he was travelling on Pakistani passport. It was revealed latter that he had also got issued a CNIC on a false identity.

The minister said that total 80.25 million CNICs have been verified out of the total 105 million during first three months of the campaign. "I think that the exercise would complete ahead of the deadline," he said, adding that the idea was that there should be a permanent system in Nadra to stop such illegal practices.

Ch Nisar said that the government had started a similar crackdown against illegal passports and 29,000 illegal passports issued to foreigners had been cancelled. “We have cancelled 2,000 official passports issued to non-entitled persons during the last regime while taking shelter of the discretionary powers of the interior minister and the secretary.”

He said that under these powers the minister and secretary could issue official passport to any non-entitled person. “The law (on this) needs to be amended to end these discretionary powers and these should be limited to some specific cases,” he added.

"This is a national security drive and a multi-pronged effort. We want to minimise corruption in Nadra and passport office and we will continue this cleanup operation in both departments,” he said, adding that official passports of Pakistan were used in human trafficking in the past.

The minister said he wanted that there should be a time limit on blockage of CNICs and a comprehensive policy would be announced next week. He said that Nadra and the agencies will have to prove the illegal nationally of any blocked cardholder; otherwise, it would be automatically unblocked after the time period.

The minister announced that e-passports would be issued soon, while more Nadra centres would be opened to facilitate citizens applying for identity cards. In the first phase, new offices would be opened in Karachi, Lahore, Quetta and Gujranwala.

A helpline would also be established to redress complaints of citizens against Nadra and the interior ministry would monitor performance of Nadra offices.