Magazine article New Internationalist

The Boy with No Identity

Magazine article New Internationalist

The Boy with No Identity

Article excerpt

Nadeem Ahmad is totally dedicated to his education. An affable boy in his late teens, he lives in the remote 'village number 44' in the Shah Koat district of Punjab, near Lahore. He attends the village's Kotla Khawan School, where the teachers describe him as a model pupil.

Despite being orphaned at an early age and having to look after his siblings, he never misses school. Having obtained over 70 per cent in his Class 8 assessment, he threw himself into preparation for the Class 9 exam.

But then Nadeem was told he would not be allowed to take the exam. He did not have the appropriate identity papers and was not registered with the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) as a Pakistani citizen. More specifically, he needed a 'Form B', which was mandatory for sitting the Class 9 exam.

Nadeem went to NADRA's local offices, but officials refused to entertain his request for a Form B. There was a specific problem : Form ? can only be obtained by parents on behalf of their children. Without parents, he was told, there was no way of obtaining the form. Indeed, he was a person with no identity.

Angry and frustrated, Nadeem sent a letter, on 30 November 2010, to the Children's Complaint Office of the Ombudsman in Islamabad. ? ask you,' he wrote, 'is it my fault that my parents are dead? Why am I being punished for an act of God? Now I am beginning to think that our beloved country prefers that I become a labourer. Is there no-one in this country who can throw a rope of hope towards the orphans? How ironic that our own laws are destroying the future of our own children! Is there no limit to the cruelty that can be perpetuated on the children of this country?'

Neglected children

Nadeem's letter landed on the desk of Saleem Durrani, Child Complaint Advisor at the Ombudsman Regional Office in Lahore. 'I was moved to tears when I read the letter,' he says. 'It was beautifully written, full of pertinent questions, by someone young but clearly very talented.'

The Ombudsman of Pakistan has a specific mandate to investigate complaints against any Federal Agency. Its independent complaints handling service is free and open to everyone. In the Lahore Office, located on the third floor of an office building on Davis Road, anyone, including children, can walk in to complain against government agencies. …

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