12 October 2022
By Rehan Piracha
ISLAMABAD: The National Database Registration Authority told the Islamabad High Court that it had no record of Muttahida Qaumi Movement founder Altaf Hussain during the hearing of a petition on Wednesday for the issuance of his National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistani (NICOP).
Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani directed the interior secretary to submit a report on October 26 about the blocking of the MQM founder’s identity card and passport after consultation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
At the onset of the hearing, NADRA’s lawyer said that Altaf Hussain is not registered in the authority’s records. He said Altaf Hussain’s identity card might have been issued before the establishment of NADRA. The court questioned how a person could get a power of attorney attested if the Pakistani embassy refused to do so on basis of the absence of a NADRA identity card. The judge said Altaf Hussain’s application was pending and the court would have to take a decision on it.
Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani reprimanded the ministries of the interior and foreign affairs over the absence of their representatives in the hearing. The judge said how he could give a direction if the officials of both ministries had not appeared before the court.
Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani doubted whether the officials in the Interior Ministry had bothered to see Altaf Hussain’s application, which was pending since 2014.
Expressing his surprise at the absence, Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani directed that directors from both ministries appear before the court within an hour, adjourning the hearing till the period.
After the hearing resumed on the appearance of summoned officials before the court, the representative of the Ministry of Interior disclosed that MQM founder’s passport and identity card were blocked on the institutions of the anti-terrorism court. However, Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani remarked that civil rights and criminal cases are two different matters. The court directed the interior secretary to submit a report after consulting the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the next date of hearing on October 26.
The application has been filed by MQM-Altaf through its ex-deputy convener Momin Khan. The petition said that the Lahore High Court in 2015 had placed a ban on the coverage of speeches of the MQM founder. The case is pending adjudication to date and therefore, the interim order of the Lahore High Court has lapsed its constitutional validity under Article 199 of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973, the petitioner claimed.
The ban is, however, still being enforced and the MQM founder is still banned from television, the lawyer representing the petitioner said. In the case, the MQM founder was represented by the late Asma Jahangir and since her death, “he remains unrepresented and therefore unable to plead his case.”
The petition stated that to appoint a new legal representative, the MQM chief approached the London High Commission for attestation of power of attorney. The commission, however, refused to attest the documents citing the omission of a NADRA card although there’s no such requirement for attestation as per the form on the high commission’s website, the lawyer claimed.
The application also mentioned that the MQM chief in 2014 had applied for NICOP and renewal of his Pakistani passport which was confirmed by then Pakistan High Commissioner to London Wajid Shamsul and Foreign Office Spokesperson Tasnim Aslam.
Altaf Hussain, however, was denied a Pakistani identity document on what the petitioner claimed to be a “pretextual objection” to not physically approaching the consulate. The petitioner claimed that although the rule allows people who can’t physically visit the high commission are entitled to NADRA mobile services. On June 1, the MQM chief again applied for the NADRA team visit for biometrics on which he was told to fill out an online form. One and a half months later, the application along with all the relevant documents was submitted, the petition claimed, adding that it has not been processed yet.
The Islamabad High Court had issued notices to the federal government, the ministry of foreign affairs, and NADRA over the petition. The court has also issued notices to the respondents on the issue of attestation of power of attorney.