Afghanistan's Presidential Palace has announced that the registration process for electronic ID cards has begun and the distribution process will start within the next few days.
A few months ago, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in a decree ordered an amendment into the population registration law so as to include ethnicity on new ID cards, but the legislative decree was rejected by the country's parliament.
Also, a large number of civil institutions, political parties and current politicians opposed the inclusion of information regarding citizens' ethnicity on electronic ID cards.
But the Presidential Palace is trying to ignore the opposition of Parliamentarians and current politicians and he is still insisting on launching the distribution process.
The President insists on the inclusion of nationality, ethnicity and religion on the electronic ID cards. Based on the President’s desired plan, the term "Afghan" will be denoted for all citizens of Afghanistan on electronic ID cards and information on ethnicity of citizens, such as Tajik, Pashtun, Uzbek, Hazara will also be included on the new ID cards.
The dispute is mainly over why nationality will be designated on the new cards, with leading figures from some ethnic groups rejecting the term “Afghan”.
In the opinion of the opposition, which is almost all non-Pashtun ethnicities, the word "Afghan" can only be referred to Pashtuns.
They consider the inclusion of the term "Afghan" a violation of civil rights, contrary to the social structure and an attempt to deny the identity of other ethnic groups.
They argue that the term "Afghan" is a synonym of Pashtun and its designation as the national identity of Afghanistan would mean "Pashtunization", the identity of non-Pashtuns living in Afghanistan.
But some other insist that the word "Afghan" should be used to denote all citizens of Afghanistan because this word in the country's constitution is referred to all citizens of the country and even in abroad, they are called "Afghans". They argue that this is an old tradition and all Afghans accept this. This group of people also argues that the term "Afghan" is not a synonym of Pashtun and that this can be used as the country's "national identity" which will get the ethnic groups closer to each other and will consolidate national unity.
Disagreements getting more serious
Although the Arg Presidential Palace has written on its official Facebook page that the country's citizens for the first time will enjoy electronic ID cards, but disagreements are getting more serious on this issue.
The Chief Executive, Abdullah Abdullah’s office has said that the distribution of electronic ID cards is an important national issue and needs more discussions and precision. He has called for the postponment in distribution of e-ID cards.
"Today, the country is in a critical situation," he said, adding that "The rulers of Afghanistan must not attempt to move from one crisis into another".
Afghanistan's powerful party of Jamiat-e-Islami last night held an emergency meeting to discuss the prevention of the distribution of e-ID cards with the inclusion of the term "Afghan" on cards.
Who will be granted the first electronic ID card?
Without considering the demands of Abdullah Abdullah, Jamiat-e-Islami party and the opposition of non-Pashtun ethnics, the Population Registration Department has officially begun the registration process.
The population registration department announced that they have started fingerprinting senior government officials for the distribution of the new ID cards.
The first electronic ID card was due to be issued to former President Hamid Karzai, but he is not signatory to the population registration law that was approved by the parliament in 2013.
Now, President Ashraf Ghani and First Lady Rula Ghani have both applied for electronic ID cards and will be the first to receive the new ID cards.
The Arg Presidential Palace has said they will surely put the plan to practice, but on the other hand, those who oppose the inclusion of the term "Afghan" on the ID cards, have warned the government of being responsible for any further consequences.