‘Identity card holders can enter Pakistan’

*NADRA tells Supreme Court cards are costly because authority operates registration centres overseas

‘Identity card holders can enter Pakistan’

ISLAMABAD: The National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) on Monday informed the Supreme Court that a person could enter Pakistan if he or she has a national identity card for overseas Pakistanis (NICOP).

It also said that the holder of Pakistan origin card could also enter Pakistan without visa.

Holders of both cards do not require a Pakistani passport and Pakistani visa respectively to enter the country, NADRA said.

NADRA Chairman Usman Mubeen said this through his reply in response to the February 11 suo motu notice, taken by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar on the application of an overseas Pakistani alleging exorbitant fee for issuance and cancellation of Pakistan origin card.

A three-member bench, headed by the CJP, will take up the matter on Tuesday (today) on the request of Colonel (r) Muhammad Saghir.

"NICOP holders who travel on foreign passports can gain entry into Pakistan upon representation of their NICOPs. This means that they don't require obtaining a Pakistani Passport just for the purpose of coming to Pakistan. Thus, in comparison, the most expensive NICOP (executive, smart, Zone-A) costs USD 100 (for 10 years), whereas an urgent passport with 100 pages for 10 years costs 21,600," the reply stated.

It also stated that the reason for higher cost of the cards was that NADRA had to operate registration centers overseas.

"There are presently 14 registration centers operational abroad. All the expenses of these centers are incurred in foreign currency at foreign rates. The rents and the salaries of staff are also higher based on foreign rates," the reply stated adding that renovation, maintenance and furniture is procured from local market in local rates of that country.

The reply contended that NADRA was contemplating to open more centers to facilitate more overseas Pakistanis.

"Thus the cost of operating centers abroad is much higher than those in Pakistan and in the absence of higher fees of overseas cards it may be infeasible to operate centers overseas," it stated.

Likewise, the reply contended that the higher cost was the need for expensive IT infrastructure for serving overseas Pakistanis.

"NADRA is operating Online web based system for the issuance of NICOP and POC. Giving online services of such scale requires a high-availability mission-critical redundant internet-connection system with state of art cyber security infrastructure and integration with international credit-card services," it added.

NADRA further contended that the infrastructure was procured from international vendors and it required highly specialised workforce around-the-clock to manage the technical operations with international standards datacenters. "Just the cost of maintenance contracts of NADRA's technical infrastructure deployed for the service of overseas Pakistani runs into hundreds of thousands of Dollars per year," the reply stated.