WASHINGTON - Pakistan’s Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal recently responded to an inquiry from parliament’s upper house on how slain Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansoor was able to get a Pakistani passport.
Mansoor was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan’s Balochistan province in May 2016 when he was reportedly returning from a visit to neighboring Iran.
Both his Pakistani passport and ID card were recovered near his car, which was destroyed in the drone strike. Mansoor was using the alias Wali Muhammad to avoid being tracked by authorities.
Screenshots taken of his documents went viral on social media and raised questions in the local and international media as to how the Afghan insurgent leader managed to get a legitimate Pakistani passport.
?Source of official passport
Critics at the time were arguing that there must have been people within the Pakistani establishment who helped Mansoor get the official document.
Pakistan Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal recently acknowledged in a letter to the country’s parliament that Mansoor was using a genuine Pakistani passport provided by the country’s National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), a government entity responsible for issuing identification documents to Pakistani citizens.
“NADRA has conducted a departmental inquiry to unearth involvement of its officials in the issuance of fake CNIC (Computerized National ID Card) to Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor with the name of Wali Muhammad s/o Shah Muhammad,” Iqbal wrote to the parliament.
The government said it dismissed at least three NADRA employees after an investigation established their involvement in issuing travel documents to the Afghan insurgent leader.
Some in Pakistan have likened Mansoor’s passport issue to an administrative glitch or a corruption case.
“Until and unless the government will take strong measurements against corruption and those involved in it, these incidents will remain unavoidable,” Hasan Askari Rizvi, a Lahore-based analyst, told VOA.
Farhat Ullah Babar, a prominent lawmaker and member of the Pakistan Peoples Party, cited the government’s incompetence in Mansoor getting a Pakistani passport.
Babar said the government’s response to parliament is inadequate.
“It is our absolute right to know about the loopholes that allowed a national security organization to issue Pakistani documents to a terror chief,” he told VOA.
“The nation needs to know what has been done to the culprits involved in this heinous crime. Let me tell you, nothing, absolutely nothing,” Babar said.
Some critics argue that NADRA follows a very strict verification procedure, and no one can be issued a fake national identity card without an insider’s help.
Taliban safe haven
Afghan officials said that Mansoor’s ability to get a Pakistani passport points to ties the insurgent group has with elements inside Pakistan’s military establishment.
Pakistani officials have rejected the Afghan government’s allegations and said Taliban neither have support nor safe havens inside Pakistan. They said Taliban control large swaths of areas inside Afghanistan and operate from there.
While Taliban do control certain districts in Afghanistan, according to a new report published by Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), Kabul and Washington maintain Taliban leadership still enjoys safe havens in Pakistan.
Talking to VOA this week, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells reiterated U.S. calls for Pakistan to crack down on militants and avoid selective actions against militants in the country.
“We would like to see the same commitment that Pakistan brought in 2014 to the fight against Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan; that same strategic commitment to the other militant proxy groups who take advantage of Pakistan territory,” Wells told VOA.
U.S. Army General John Nicholson, the U.S. commander of the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan, said Thursday that Pakistan has not changed its behaviors since August, when U.S. President Donald Trump announced his new U.S. strategy that called on Pakistan to do more to stop militant sanctuaries in the country.
“No, I haven’t seen any change yet in their [Pakistan] behavior,” Nicholson told reporters following a meeting of the NATO defense ministers in Brussels.
“They could put pressure on the enemy, but if they allow the enemy to regenerate and allow their safe havens in Pakistan, then we will have another tough year ahead of us,” Nicholson warned, while talking to VOA at the end of the NATO meeting in Brussels.