Friday, July 30, 2010

The case of non matching finger prints

The whole thing started when my driving license expired in September last year. Like any law abiding citizen I decided to have it renewed only to be told that since my license was issued by Sindh Traffic Police, I should return to Sindh (Karachi) to get it renewed again.
Apply for a completely new one from Punjab Police, starting with issuance of the six week learner’s permit. Since the entire family had permanently shifted from Karachi to Lahore some years back, the option of going back to Karachi each time my license expired was too inconvenient to be considered, so I decided to go for the second option which appeared to be the simpler choice.

But in reality it was like taking the lid off Pandora’s Box.

The first hitch came when I was told that I could not be issued a new license since both addresses (temporary and permanent) on my NIC listed a Karachi residence. The eligibility criteria for issuance of even a learner license required that I first get at least one of the address (preferably both) updated to show my residence somewhere in the province of Punjab.
What followed from here on was nothing short of horrific.

First came the trip to NADRA where simply for the sake of updation of address I had go through the entire process of identification that included being finger printed and photographed.
At the end of the process my application was refused submission with the objection that the attestation officer’s NIC also did not list a residence in Punjab. (Any where else in Pakistan was just not good enough: a condition which has since then been declared by other NADRA officials as baseless and misleading, though if it actually is or not, I still do not know)
Nonetheless new papers were submitted next day with new attestation.

Fifteen days later when my updated NIC should have been ready for collection, I was told that it was not, on account of the fact that “my finger prints did not match those preserved in the NADRA data base.”
I was also told that I needed to go back to be finger printed again.
Another trip to the NADRA facility and another fifteen days waiting period later the same message was repeated one more time.
"Finger prints do not match" hence the lady needs to come again for another finger printing session.
By now my father who is not a very patient man even under normal circumstances lost whatever patience he had left, flatly refusing to go back for another useless fingerprinting.

“If these people have decided that the prints don’t match then they will never match no matter how many times she goes back”.
This was his logic and I can’t say that I disagreed with him on that score.
Were these people even aware of the ridiculous nature of their supposed objection????
The only way my finger prints would not match would be if I had taken somebody else’s hands with me on finger printing day.

If the rest of me was the same as before (including my photographed face) how could my fingers be different?

By now more than two months had gone by and I had still not been issued my new updated NIC. What’s more I no longer had my old one with me either. It was collected by NADRA officials when I went to apply for the new one.
With out my NIC I was unable to undertake any transaction or deal that involved mandatory presence that original identification document. Keeping in mind that an NIC is required nowadays for anything from buying a phone SIM to opening a bank account one can just imagine what kind of sticky situation I was in. Ideally the old NIC should have been collected at the time of issuance of the new one. But if that is done then the NADRA people would not be able to manipulate the situation to their advantage.

I could see what game was being played here. For an average citizen a trip to NADRA means a whole day wasted and usually after being called back for some stupid and trivial reason two or three times the exasperated citizens invariably opt for the “easy way out”. A few currency notes exchange hands and all objections miraculously disappear.
I am sure had I also coughed up a bit of cash, the dilemma of my non matching fingers would have been resolved immediately. And I am equally sure that had I paid a little extra those workers at the facility would have gladly matched my prints with even those of Barack Obama (except that Obama would not have left his precious prints in a lowly NADRA office).

Refusing to pay any kind of amount whatsoever, we finally did what we should have done in the very beginning. We located an official sufficiently high in the NADRA hierarchy to be taken seriously and lodged a complaint with him. He promised to look into the matter. He certainly must have done that because only six days later my new NIC was ready to be collected at the designated NADRA outlet, finger prints and every thing else a perfect match with the old data.

As for the driving license which initiated this whole process.
Well, that deserves a blog to itself.
So till next time
Au revoir