ISLAMABAD - Ahead of the next general elections, when millions of poor Pakistanis are struggling to get identity cards to cast votes, the National Database and Registration Authority has increased the fee for the computerised national identity cards in all categories.

The federal government through a statutory notification (SRO) has increased the fee for CNICs in all categories more than hundred percent. The fee has been doubled in all the categories while in the category of urgent CNIC the fee has been increased up to 300 percent.

Any citizen of Pakistan must have the CNIC to cast his/her vote in elections and the Nadra has imposed a more financial burden on the poor masses who are already struggling to get the CNICs from the authority to participate in the election process.

The fee in all categories has been increased by amending National Database and Registration Authority (National Identity Card) Rules 2002 in the exercise of the powers conferred under section 44 of Nadra Ordinance 2000.

According to the notification of the interior ministry, the normal fees of the CNICs has been increased from Rs200 to Rs400, urgent fee has been increased from Rs300 to Rs1150 and the fee of executive CNIC (Teslin-based) has been increased from Rs1,000 to Rs2,150.

Similarly, the fee of the normal smart card (chip-based CNIC) has been increased from Rs400 to Rs750, the urgent smart card from Rs800 to Rs1,500 and executive smart card from Rs1,600 to Rs2,500.

The new rates of NICOP (National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis) have also been fixed. The fee of normal smart NICOP (chip-based card) has been fixed at $39, urgent NICOP $57 and executive NICOP at $75 for Zone-A countries including Europe, the US and Canada while Middle East countries, which fall in Zone-B category, the new rates for smart NICOP (chip-based) normal has been fixed at $20, $30 for urgent and $40 for executive smart NICOP. According to the notification, $3 less would be charged for all categories of NICOPs having Teslin-based cards (without chip)

A senior official of Nadra said that the rates had been revised to reduce a subsidy given by the Nadra on each CNIC as the Supreme Court had asked the authority to reduce the fee of NICOPs that was too much.

Responding queries, he said that the NADRA was providing a subsidy of Rs40 on each CNIC. When asked instead of an increase from 100 percent to 300 percent, an increase of up to Rs40 should have been made on each CNIC to withdraw subsidy, the official failed to give a plausible response. The official also could not respond when asked how the Nadra was turning over in millions of rupees if it was giving a subsidy on each card.