The electronic National Identity Card department will start the issuance of the new ID cards in Kabul in the near future, head of the office, Rohullah Ahmadzai said.
The cards, he said, will include nationality and ethnicity information of the card holders.
He said President Ashraf Ghani, First Lady Rula Ghani and Second Vice President Mohammad Sarwar Danish applied for electronic national identity card (e-NIC) on Thursday and that their names have been entered into the database.
Ahmadzai said some members of the cabinet also applied for e-NIC on Friday and they will receive the ID cards in the near future.
The nationality information, and names of 14 ethnic groups in the country, ethnicity information, will be mentioned in the new identity cards, he said.
“Today a number of members of cabinet and national figures including head of Afghanistan's Ulema Council, the Attorney General and a number of other high-ranking officials received the e-NIC forms and officially applied for the electronic national identity cards,” said Ahmadzai.
The Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah’s office says the authority believes that the issuance of the electronic national identity cards is an important national issue and that it requires further discussion and attention.
Abdullah’s office said in a statement that “a national consensus is required in this respect”.
Members of Jamiat-e-Islami party leadership meanwhile said they are against the roll-out of the new identity cards based on the legislative decree that was issued by President Ghani.
“We consider this move illegal. President (Ashraf Ghani) does not have the authority to issue legislative decree in contravention with the law that was approved in 2015. In current situation this move is not good,” Noor Rahman Akhlaqi, member of leadership team of the party said.
President Ghani’s deputy spokesman Dawa Khan Minapal meanwhile said the e-NIC roll-out process has started based on the law and that government supports it.
“Roll-out of e-NIC is one of the important demands of the Afghan nation; government will move on the process,” said Minapal.
The decision to start the roll-out of e-NIC met with mixed reaction from parliament members. Some MPs said they support the process based on the president’s legislative decree, while others said they are against the move.
“This law has completed all its main legal steps and the roll-out of e-NIC based on this law has no problem,” first deputy speaker of parliament Nazir Ahmadzai said.
“We do not accept the issuance of electronic National Identity Cards based on the president's legislative decree,” MP Maryam Kofi said.
Brief journey of e-NIC
The multi-million-dollar e-NIC plan ahead of elections in Afghanistan has stirred heated debate, ethnic animosity and political controversy as the country tries to tackle issues on the security and economic fronts. Afghan political leadership and parliament members never had a united stance on the e-NIC rollout.
On January 2, the office of Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah (CEO) asked parliament members to finalize Ghani’s legislative decree on the electronic national identity cards (e-NIC).
A Divided parliament
Back in November 2017, Afghanistan’s Senate approved a legislative decree issued by Ghani stating the new electronic identity cards will note religion and ethnicity information of each person.
However, the Lower House of Parliament initially voted against the decree, but later a joint commission from the House of Representatives and Senate was established to debate the issue.
On December 18, a joint commission of Afghanistan’s national assembly approved Ghani’s decree on the inclusion of nationality and ethnicity in the new electronic identity cards.
The controversy over the inclusion of information on nationality and ethnicity has been delaying the much-awaited process for several years.
Following that, the Senate's defense committee and members of the joint commission called on the e-NIC department to swiftly start the roll out process to the people of Afghanistan.
In October, officials from the Population Registration Office and electronic National Identity Cards announced that the new e-NIC will contain nationality and ethnicity information and that they will start the roll out process soon.
This comes after members of the Wolesi Jirga (the Lower House of Parliament) had rejected Ghani’s legislative decree to amend the population registration law that said the nationality and ethnicity information should be included in e-NIC.
In December, over 50 members of parliament signed a petition against the decision taken to include nationality and ethnicity in the new electronic National Identity Cards (e-NIC).
The MPs said the inclusion of such information was not necessary and urged government to review the decision.
Following the establishment of the National Unity Government (NUG), Ghani approved the law of population registration in which the inclusion of nationality and ethnicity information was not included.
The breakthrough comes at a time that Afghan people have always said the electronic National Identity Cards should be rolled-out without considering any political perspectives from being factored in, nor should there be any political interference.
Afghan political elites and members of the public and observers say that e-NIC would have significant implications on ensuring the credibility of future elections in Afghanistan.