LAHORE – The FIA on Tuesday arrested nine officials of Directorate General of Immigration and Passport and Nadra, including a deputy director from the passport office Garden Town and five female staffers of Nadra Baghbanpura, who are allegedly involved in producing fake computerized national identity cards (CNICs) and passports against heavy gratification, sources in FIA said.

 The scam came to surface after a British tabloid, The Sun, reported that a crime ring in Pakistan was offering to provide fake passports and visas, as well as help smuggle bogus individuals into Olympic venues in London, posing as members of athletes’ support teams.

The main accused of the scam, Nayyer Tirmazi a former employee of FIA, went underground after the FIA team leaked the information before raiding the passport office in Garden Town, said a FIA officer, while seeking anonymity.

However, the FIA arrested Acting Deputy Director Passport Shahid Iqbal who claimed, while talking to The Nation, that he had nothing to do with issuance of passports.

Among others, five female staffers of Nadra - Rozeena, Rukhsana, Sumaira, Uzma and Qudsia - were also arrested but later released on personal surety. They would appear before FIA on Wednesday (today) for further interrogation. The officials arrested from the passport office included Aslam James (Data Entry Operator), Ghaffar Ali (UDC), Talat Chaudhry (UDC) and Muhammad Fahim (DEO).

Talking to The Nation Deputy Director Passport Cell Nasir Jameel said an accused Malik Bashir, the owner of Dreamland travel services who has denied the charges, had claimed that he would join inquiry on Wednesday (today).

Sources said the news story published in The Sun shattered the power corridors of Pakistan, after which the FIA and other agencies had come into action.

A senior official of Nadra on condition of anonymity said the issuance of fake CNIC was not a big scam since “We deal with similar matter cases off and on and register cases against them.”

It is worth mentioning that some five years back, there were 22,000 FIRs registered against applicants with different police stations of country, who attempted to get fake CNICs issued in their favour, said former Nadra chairman Brig Saleem Moen, while talking to The Nation at that time.

The NADRA official said the case was only being projected due to links with the London Olympics; otherwise; it could gone unheard with the Pakistani authorities.

“There will be at least 3,000 such fake cases with the Nadra office, if the matter is thoroughly investigated,” said sources in the Nadra vigilance section.

There were no fool proof security checking instruments at any of the Nadra offices and the headquarters, with the help of which the staff could stop production of fake CNICs, sources claimed.

Additional Secretary Interior Arfi Akram and Deputy Secretary Interior Yaqoob visited the FIA office here on Tuesday and held meetings with the officers and issued instructions to them. When contacted, Deputy Director Passport office Nasir Jameel said the females were released on personal surety because there was no segregated lockup and female staff at the FIA office.