ISLAMABAD - Chairman National Database & Regulation Authority (Nadra) Tariq Malik has shelved the project of outsourcing Smart NICOP (National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis) operations to a private firm, despite Interior Minister Rehman Malik's severe opposition, well-placed sources in the Ministry of Interior Saturday informed.
The Nadra has signed the projected with a UK based company, International Identity Services Limited (IIS) when Ali Arshad Hakeem was its chairman. The country's premier intelligence agency had showed it reservations on the project for fear of sharing Pakistani's sensitive information with a foreign firm.
However, Nadra has said that it would continue issuing Smart NICOP in Europe through Pakistani embassies and consulates there and has only shelved its plan to outsource its operation there.
Chairman Nadra Tariq Malik informed TheNation that Nadra was not going to outsource such operations to any private firm that Nadra had the capacity to undertake itself. However, he further refused to give any comment on the issue.
In July 2012, Tariq Malik on the instructions of Rehman Malik, then adviser to Prime Minister on interior affairs, had visited UK soon after taking charge of chairman Nadra to launch the outsourcing project in UK and Europe as well.
On the sidelines of launching of the project, Malik discussed the project with its true stakeholders, the overseas Pakistanis living in UK & Europe. However, during this visit the overseas Pakistanis from every walk-of-life strongly flouted the project terming it pernicious and against the national interest of the country.
In WikiLeaks, released by its founder Julian Assange, it was published that Rehman Malik had given an offer to the US to share Nadra's data with it to track down terrorists. Earlier, it had come into the lime light that in disguise of the NICOP outsourcing, the government of Pakistan had compromised the security of overseas Pakistanis' data.
In the light of these reservations, the Chairman Nadra Tariq Malik soon after his return from the visit ordered Internal Review (IR) of the project. The IR came up with the legal and contractual glitches in the project, a source in the Authority informed.
Well-placed sources in Ministry of Interior have revealed to this scribe that Pakistan's premier intelligence agency had also change of heart. Initially they cleared the concept but later on upon receiving the details of the overseas operations they conveyed serious concerns not only on operations but also put a question mark on the company.
It is pertinent to mention here that the overseas Pakistani from different walks of life had already registered their protests against the project, which primarily aimed to multiply their miseries in attaining the smart NICOP. It is also learnt that Nadra has served a legal notice to IIS, the outsourcing company, in London.
After the completion of Nadra's Internal Review, chairman Nadra had sought the legal opinion from independent legal consultants and hence decided to shelve outsourcing Nadra's Europe operation.
Nadra has decided to issue Smart NICOPS to overseas Pakistanis through Pakistani embassies and consulates and all cards will be printed through a centralized operation at Nadra headquarters Islamabad, informed spokesperson Nadra. She said Chairman Nadra took the decision in the best national and public interest.
As senior official of Nadra wishing not to be named as he was not authorized to speak with the media said chairman Nadra was of opinion that the Authority would never compromise on the security of the citizens' data and no outsourcing would be done at the expense of national security and safety. In this backdrop, in the best national interest the chairman Nadra has shelved the overseas project and the Authority will continue to issue Smart NICOPs through embassies as per standard operating procedure in vogue, he added.
It is learnt that both Maliks were at loggerheads on this issue. The Minister of Interior is not happy with the independent line taken by Chairman Nadra took on this issue. The sources said Interior Minister had ordered Tariq Malik to issue instructions for UK based company to start its operation but he didn't comply with his instructions instead Chairman Nadra cancelled the contract and sent the notice to the company that their contract is void ab initio.