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One In Three Afghans Lacks Identity Documents

Most Afghans now carry a handwritten ID card called Tazkara
Most Afghans now carry a handwritten ID card called Tazkara

Afghanistan’s government estimates that as many as a third of the country’s population -- an estimated 10 million citizens -- have no identity documents.

The Afghan Population Registration Department is now planning to distribute handwritten identity cards to those who still don’t have one. The office also aims to distribute forms to eventually issue electronic ID cards to the recipients of the current handwritten ID cards.

“We have estimated that some 10 million Afghans still do not have ID cards,” Rohullah Ahmadzai, spokesman for the Afghan Population Registration Department, told Radio Free Afghanistan on November 16. “We want to soon launch a campaign to issue ID cards to all these people.”

His office is aiming for a four-month campaign from March to July next year to target remote regions across the country.

Afghanistan’s current population is estimated to be 30 million. These figures are based on census surveys conducted four decades ago. Most Afghans now carry a handwritten ID card called Tazkara. It is a vital identity and legal document. Children are considered eligible to receive one when they begin attending school. Individuals can also receive one later in their lives.

For more than three years now, Kabul has struggled with replacing these handwritten documents with electronic ID cards.

FILE: A billboard in Kabul showcases the new electronic ID cards.
FILE: A billboard in Kabul showcases the new electronic ID cards.

Until recently, disagreements between various interest groups, political parties, lawmakers, and factional leaders had blocked the issuance of electronic ID cards as they pushed for or against writing the holder’s religion, nationality, and ethnicity on the new cards.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani attempted to end these disagreements by decreeing earlier this year that both nationality and ethnicity should be written on the electronic ID cards.

Late last month, Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of the Afghan parliament, however, rejected the presidential legislative decree.

Competing sides in the debate are still trying to enact their version of the Population Registration Law that was first adopted in 2013.

Ahmadzai says his office is geared toward implementing the presidential decree. “We will process our work based on the law that has been officially printed,” he told the independent Tolo TV.

The current and previous Afghan governments have failed to conduct censuses because of insecurity, a lack of resources, and political wrangling.

Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent Yousaf Zadran contributed reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan.

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