Irshad Salim (BE2C2 Report) — The country’s Supreme Court on Thursday said that Pakistanis living abroad should be given monetary concessions by the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) in the issuance of identity cards.
A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Mian Saqib Nisar was hearing a suo motu case initiated after a non-resident Pakistani (dual-national) complained that the fee for a Pakistan Origin Card (POC) had been increased to Rs22,000, and the cancellation fee to Rs31,500.
The Nadra chairman explained to the bench that overseas Pakistanis are issued two different types of cards.
The Pakistan Origin Card (POC) is for people who have given up their Pakistani nationality (called immigrants), Yusuf said. Those who have given up Pakistani citizenship, considered a dual national, and want to visit the country can use the POC instead of applying for a visa, Mt. Yusuf said.
The National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis (NICOP) is for Pakistani citizens who live in a foreign country for employment purposes (called migrant workers), he explained.
The court asked Nadra why Pakistanis who live abroad and send back foreign exchange are charged a hefty amount for the POC, while Pakistanis who live in the country are charged a negligible amount for their identity cards.
“The services of non-resident Pakistanis are commendable,” the CJP remarked, adding that Pakistanis living in foreign countries should be given special considerations.
He reminded Nadra chairman Usman Yusuf that Nadra was a non-profit institution, saying: “It is the right of every Pakistani to be issued an identity card.”
Justice Nisar further asked Yusuf if the children who are born in foreign countries to parents who have been living in those countries for a long time will be considered Pakistani citizens.
The Nadra chairman said the parents of such children must get them registered in a Pakistan mission in the concerned country.
The court asked Nadra to submit details of its staff and centers in 26 foreign countries. The hearing was adjourned till further notice.
The chief justice in February took suo moto notice of “unnecessary exorbitant fee” Nadra is allegedly charging Pakistani migrants, called dual-nationals, for issuance and cancellation of POC.
The apex court had issued the suo motu notice on the complaint of an overseas Pakistani who said the increase in fee was putting undue financial burden on overseas Pakistanis.
According to the complaint, the POC fee was earlier increased to $150 from $100 and then to Rs22,000 (almost $220) for preparation and Rs31,500 (almost $315) for cancellation of the card.
The complainant alleged that the Nadra’s move has discouraged dual nationality holding overseas Pakistanis to opt for the POC.
The Supreme Court, several years back, directed the Election Commission of Pakistan to facilitate offsite voting by Pakistani nationals overseas — a move which remains in the works.