QUETTA -- Security forces in restive Balochistan Province are cracking down on civil administration and National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) officials involved in issuing phony Computerised National Identity Cards (CNICs), officials said.
The operation, launched August 1 in Quetta, is part of on-going counter-insurgency operations, said Muhammad Saad, a senior defence official from Islamabad. The effort is meant to break up the distribution of forged CNICs to terrorists.
"So far, 15 senior officers, including several assistant directors, deputy directors and other NADRA officials, have been arrested," Saad told Pakistan Forward.
"An additional deputy commissioner of Qilla Abdullah District and two assistant commissioners of the border city of Chaman [along the Afghan border] also were among the detained officials," he said. "They were involved in the verification process of national documents issued to anti-state elements."
"The detained group of government officials processed more than 250,000 illegal CNICs for foreigners in Qilla Abdullah, Quetta, Noshki, Dalbandin, Khanozai and Mastung area," Saad said without giving the time frame.
"Investigations revealed that some of the detained NADRA and civil administration officials helped issue a Pakistani CNIC to Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansoor [who was killed earlier in 2016]," he said.
"Investigation teams are scrutinising the NDB [National Database of Pakistan]," Quetta-based intelligence official Naveed Babar told Pakistan Forward. "In the past few months, we have arrested a large number of militants through these developments."
"We are investigating our national database from the roots up," he said. "The illegal issuance of CNICs triggered several challenges to our national security."
Affecting innocent residents
"The officials involved in issuing illegal documents to foreigners damaged the real family trees of local inhabitants," he said. "They entered phony data ... and tried to portray the foreigners as local people."
NADRA will fire everyone who compromised national security, he said. "More officers are likely to be arrested," he added.
"No obstacle will be tolerated during the on-going drive against corrupt elements in our sensitive departments," Usman Kiani of Islamabad, a senior Interior Ministry official, said.
"Security agencies have arrested several agents of those groups involved in the selling of fake documents," he told Pakistan Forward. "We have installed a smart verification system on all sensitive border crossings in Balochistan."
Watching the border
"The Interior Ministry ordered security agencies to keep a close watch on check-points where foreigners routinely cross the border," Kiani said. "We are taking every possible step to keep militants from entering our soil."
During the investigation of corrupt officials, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) recently arrested in Quetta an imposter claiming to be an intelligence officer, NAB spokesman Abdul Shakoor said. The suspect is accused of trying to pressure Balochistan officials into issuing a phony local certificate.
"The suspect, Imran Ali, on August 22 ... was arrested red-handed," Shakoor said.
Arresting corrupt officials without any favouritism could benefit security greatly, said Maj. (ret.) Muhammad Omar of Islamabad, a senior defence analyst.
"It is more than important for Pakistan to track down officials who compromise national security," he told Pakistan Forward. "Militants frequently use phony documents to hide their identity."
Fake documents give militants "easy access to both sides of the Pakistani-Afghan border", he said. "It could yield great results if Pakistan ensures the strictly legal issuance of CNICs."