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When mistaken for an Afghan

When mistaken for an Afghan

KARACHI: Sheeraz Khan (not his real name) may be mistaken for an Afghan, with his ruddy complexion and rugged features. Wearing a stiff prayer cap and speaking accented Urdu, he is no different from an Afghan as most Pakhtuns on either side of the Durand Line look and sound alike.

This is, however, what some official at the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) is not convinced of. He insists that the 57-year-old man is an Afghan living in Karachi illegally and does not qualify for a Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC). The official has apparently closed his mind to accepting any reasoning, logic, and blocked Khan’s path to getting a duplicate CNIC for the valid one he has somehow lost.

“I planned to go on a 40-day Tableeghi trip after Eid, but as the issue of CNIC lingers, I have postponed it to after I get my ID card,” says Khan, living in Altaf Town, a settlement developed in the name of the MQM chief and initially inhabited by migrants from the interior of Sindh.

With a decade-old concrete block-making business, he frequently needs his original CNIC. Hence he has tried to knock at every door to get one made. Some conmen have even deprived him of several thousand of rupees on the promise to get him a duplicate card.

“One man took Rs12,000 from me on the promise that he had links in Nadra and he would get my CNIC delivered very soon. He did not and finally had to return the money. But another man earlier made off with Rs3,000 on the pretext of getting me a card,” says Khan.

He has a bundle of documents to prove his Pakistani identity. He lost his original CNIC, which was valid till 2018, but he still has with him the previous CNIC that had expired and the old national identity card. He also claims to have documents from the Mohmand Agency political agent to show that he is a genuine resident of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

His two wives have their CNICs, his three sons and a daughter have their CNICs, while his other children are minor.

Two of them hold the Smart CNIC. Besides, he has gas and electricity bills and the passports which he along with his wives used while travelling to Saudi Arabia to perform haj a few years back.

Khan has a huge family, brothers, sisters and their grown-up children and grandchildren whose data can be checked at Nadra’s database. He lost his 16-year-old grandson in the tragedy that struck the Seaview beach on Eid a couple of years ago.

When asked how many children he had, he said: “Thirteen or 14 from the two wives.” But when asked how many siblings he had, he said: “I’ll have to count. My father had three wives. However, we are four brothers and five sisters from the same mother.”

He hails from Torah Khwah village in Mohmand Agency in Fata. “Yes, it is Tora Khwa, not the infamous Tora Bora in Afghanistan,” he remarks smiling.

“If you think people from Fata are not Pakistanis, tell us so and we’ll get Afghanistan ID cards,” he says with a tinge of desperation in his tone.

Talking to Dawn, he repeatedly mentions his being ‘illiterate’, but his words are profound. “I know, there are two types of people in the world. There are those who want to help their fellow beings and those who think they are immortal emperors and are born to deny people their legitimate rights.” Apparently he has encountered a ‘potentate’, a deputy manager at Nadra’s Awami Markaz office, who keeps saying that “the matter is being investigated” and come after a couple of weeks.

Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2016

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