News Source: Dawn
Writer: Iftikhar A.Khan
ISLAMABAD: The National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) is set to revive an agreement with Mastercard which will allow citizens to receive foreign remittances through the 13-digit identification numbers on their computerised national identity cards, according to sources.
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the issue was cancelled in January by then interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan over security reasons.
A senior Nadra official, speaking on condition of anonymity, explained that the end-to-end solution to be handled by Nadra and Mastercard would not have access to the national database under the proposed project.
He said that under the proposed scheme, an icon would appear on Nadra’s database for e-payments which would allow a Mastercard holder abroad to enter his or her card number, the amount to be sent and the CNIC number of the recipient.
He said the recipient would be able collect the amount from any of Nadra’s 9,000 e-sahulat centres across the country after showing the CNIC followed by biometric verification. Mere disclosure of an individual’s CNIC number did not amount to compromising the security of the database.
“Whenever you visit the Prime Minister House or an important office or building, you are required to produce your CNIC. Does this compromise the security of the national database too?” he asked.
There were “vested interests” bent upon sabotaging the project, he said. “We hope our explanation will convince the interior minister, who is a man of integrity and an ardent supporter of innovative ideas to facilitate people.”
If Nadra managed to put the minister’s concerns to rest, the facility could be formally launched over the next six months, he added.
The official said that under the plan, citizens would be able to use their CNICs to send and receive domestic and international remittances, eliminating the need to visit a bank branch or exchange currency to transfer money.
Under the terms of the MoU, Mastercard was supposed to use its next generation payment processing technologies to process all online payments made by Pakistani citizens for the issuance of CNICs, passports or any other document provisioned by Nadra technologies. He insisted that if the plan was implemented, the new service would make sending and receiving international remittances convenient.
“This is significant because Pakistan is one of the top receivers of foreign remittances from abroad,” he said, pointing out that overseas Pakistanis had sent over $11 billion in remittances last year. He said the service would subsequently be available at the Faysal Bank’s ATMs.
Earlier, when the MoU between Nadra and Mastercard was signed at Davos, Chaudhry Nisar had objected that the agreement was signed “in the absence of a written permission from the government; neither were the stakeholders consulted nor sensitive security matters kept in view”.
While the use of technology for financial transactions was a welcome sign, he said, it should be clear that there could be no compromise on the national database’s security, nor could a department be allowed to transgress its mandate.
The Nadra official said that Chaudhry Nisar had made the decision [about MoU’s cancellation] on the basis of a wrong perception that Mastercard would get direct access to the Nadra’s database.