ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) has canceled more than 18,000 identity cards, it said on Sunday, amid a crackdown on illegal immigrants in the South Asian country.
More than 200,000 people have crossed into Afghanistan, including a vast majority that left after an October 3 ultimatum given to the 1.7 million Afghans and other foreigners, who Pakistani authorities said were illegally living in the country.
Pakistan’s decision to expel illegal immigrants last month followed suicide bombings in the country this year that the government said involved Afghan nationals, though it did not provide any evidence.
On Sunday, NADRA said the decision to cancel thousands of identity cards was aimed at addressing the issue of counterfeit documents, which posed a threat to national security.
“More than 18,000 illegal ID cards have been identified and canceled through NADRA’s robust system,” it said in a statement on X.
“NADRA is making all possible efforts for improvement under strict monitoring and coordination measures with other stakeholders.”
However, there was no immediate confirmation whether the move was linked with Pakistan’s crackdown on illegal immigrants, mostly Afghans.
The South Asian country has set up tens of holding centers to speed up the repatriation process as authorities continue to arrest illegal immigrants in nationwide sweeps.
NADRA said it had introduced new measures for people to obtain their computerized national identity cards (CNICs), including biometric verification of parents and relatives, SMS alerts to family heads, and two-stage verification for data access.
“These measures are helping identify and control the issue of illegal ID cards and the threats posed by it,” NADRA said.
The authority said it had also strengthened its internal accountability and inquiry system, leading to penalties and dismissal of employees involved in illegal practices.
The developments followed militant attacks last week in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and southwestern Balochistan provinces that border Afghanistan.
“The recent terrorism [incidents] in Mianwali air base, Pasni-Ormara and Zhob have proven that two neighbors wish to blackmail us,” Balochistan’s caretaker information minister, Jan Achakzai, told a press conference on Sunday.
“Of them, one is sponsoring terrorism and the other is providing them (militants) sanctuaries.”
Achakzai’s comment was aimed at India and Afghanistan, and was a reference to militant attacks on a training air base in Pakistan’s Mianwali district and a security convoy between Pasni and Ormara that killed 14 soldiers as well as the killing of six militants in an intelligence-based operation in Balochistan’s Zhob.
The deceased suspects in the Zhob operation were Afghan nationals, he added.