President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani on Thursday endorsed draft amendments to Article 6 of the controversial Population Registration Act, allowing the mention of words “Afghan” and “tribe” in electronic identity cards.
Draft amendments to Article 6 were introduced and approved last year by the Cabinet’s laws committee, headed by 2nd VP Mohammad Sarwar Danish. After the president’s approval, the draft was referred to the cabinet for final consent. Besides its recent approval by the cabinet, the changes were also upheld by the president through a legislative decree.
The distribution of electronic ID cards was delayed for years due to disagreements over the wording for nationality and ethnicity. The electronic identification cards perceived as an essential principle for modern governance and are crucial for ensuring development and transparency in the country.
E-Tazkira can be undoubtedly helpful in various aspects, from preventing fraud in elections to controlling crimes, improving governance and fighting corruption. However, security is a big concern for the implementation of this initiative, as insecurity sweeps throughout Afghanistan.
Considering the other national project benefiting all Afghans equally, the project of the distribution of computerized ID cards should also benefit all Afghan citizens. The National Unity Government in close cooperation with the local people must endeavor to provide security all over the country and launch a nationwide public awareness campaign ahead of or during the e-Tazkira distribution process.
There are also concerns on deprivation of people of a particular geography due to insecurity. If this happens, the distribution of ID cards will do more harm than good, because it will produce an inaccurate census than a factual one, creating hurdles for a balanced development, and undermining public trust in the government.
Now that the legal stumbling block to the e-Tazkira distribution process is removed, it is necessary to tackle other bottlenecks and challenges for the national initiative. The international society should also support the e-Tazkira distribution process, where all Afghans could easily obtain it.
The computerized ID cards will be distributed to citizens only once and can be utilized in every time there is an election to take place. It also serves as voting cards in elections and prevent additional and useless expenses. Electronic Tazkira also brings about the accurate senses of the Afghan population which could be used for numerous official purposes.
Bearing in mind the aforementioned issues, if this process started after the amendment of the Population Registration Act, it would be possible to use the electronic identity card instead of existing voting. The National Unity Government requires to begin such national project and avoid wasting more time in regard to issuing electronic Tazkira to citizens.
The step by the government is considered a key move to resolve the controversial issue which was creating barriers for the distribution of the electronic ID cards. This comes as the Afghan government has stepped up efforts to organize the parliamentary elections and has taken major steps in bring reforms in the election bodies. However, there are concerns that a fair and transparent election will not be possible in the absence of electronic ID cards. Reforms in election bodies and distribution of the electronic ID cards were among the top priorities of the government of national unity which was formed late in 2014.