Corruption menace: Pakistan lets militants get national ID cards

Foreign Islamic militants have been able to secure Pakistani national identity cards for years in exchange for bribes as low as USD 100, giving them vastly greater freedom to operate, according to a report by Pakistan's top intelligence agency.

PTI| Last Updated: Sep 03, 2015, 01:41 AM IST

Islamabad: Foreign Islamic militants have been able to secure Pakistani national identity cards for years in exchange for bribes as low as USD 100, giving them vastly greater freedom to operate, according to a report by Pakistan's top intelligence agency.

The issue of foreign jihadis operating so easily in Pakistan has regional and even global implications. The country has long been a destination for aspiring global jihadis to receive training, some of whom are sent back abroad to conduct attacks. Foreign governments, particularly neighboring Afghanistan, have frequently accused elements of the Pakistani government of sheltering Islamic militant groups that frequent the porous and lawless tribal regions along the Afghan border.

According to the recent report by the Inter-Services Intelligence or ISI obtained by The Associated Press, thousands of foreigners have illegally obtained Pakistani national IDs. Most of them are Afghan refugees trying to have a more regular status, but they also include at least dozens of Islamic militants from China, the Maldives, Uzbekistan and the United States. Pakistani militants also often secured a second national ID card under a fake name, making it harder for local law enforcement to track and apprehend them, the report says.

"If the registration authority of any country is not corruption free, there are serious security concerns," said Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan at a press conference in Islamabad on Aug. 23. Khan said he had set up a permanent committee of officers to work on ending the practice, adding, "We have prioritized it."

Among the most notorious beneficiaries of this system was Adnan Shukrijumah, a Saudi-born U.S. Citizen and a top al-Qaida commander. Shukrijumah was killed in a Pakistani army raid in a tribal region along the Afghan border in December 2014. He was found in possession of a Pakistani national identity card under the name of Shahzaib Khan, according to the ISI report.

The vast majority of those obtaining fake national IDs were Afghan refugees seeking to extend and legitimize their presence in Pakistan. But the loophole was also regularly exploited by foreign Islamic militants. The ISI report lists more than 40 foreign militants and their family members who had lived illegally in Pakistan, some of them wanted for terrorism-related charges in Pakistan or in their home countries.

Shukrijumah was on the FBI's most wanted list with a USD 5 million reward for his capture offered by the U.S. Government.

Another example was Mohammed Amin, a native of the Maldives who was wanted by his government. Amin lived in Pakistan for four years with a fake ID; according to the ISI report, he fled the country in 2011 using a Pakistani passport.