The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has directed the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to provide the fingerprint data of all CNIC-holders across the country before next year’s general elections.
Through a letter, the ECP asked NADRA for the countrywide details of all voters whose fingerprints were not available and requested to make arrangements to record all of them before the elections.
It is estimated that NADRA does not have the fingerprint record of 10% to 12% of the CNICs (millions of voters). This is one of the main hurdles for the ECP in moving from manual to electronic voting.
The issue came into limelight during this month’s by-elections in the National Assembly constituency NA-120, Lahore. The ECP installed 100 biometric voting machines (BVMs) for a test run alongside the normal process.
Before the September 17 polling, the ECP asked NADRA to provide the biometric data of all registered voters of NA-120.
Out of the total 321,786 voters in the constituency, NADRA could not provide the data for 29,607.
The authority claimed that most of these people had received CNICs before NADRA introduced biometric fingerprint machines in 2005-06. During that period, fingerprints were taken and stored on paper.
NADRA claimed that of the 29,607 people, 26,349 had acquired CNICs before 2005-06 and the CNICs of 24, 099 had expired and had not been renewed because of death, migration or other reasons.
Another 2,271 possessed the National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis (NICOP) after submitting their fingerprints on paper.
The remaining 772 people were not able to register their fingerprints because of skin issues, amputated or bandaged fingers or being elderly.
The test run of the BVMs did not yield a promising result either, as they failed to read the fingerprints of 12% voters whose data had been provided by NADRA to the ECP.
Delaying Tactics or Incompetence?
It is odd that even with manual voting, around 20% or more votes are not recognizable. Why is it that the ECP is so concerned for 10-12% people who can always vote manually even if electronic voting is implemented and their data is not available through NADRA. NADRA could simply provide a list of people whose data is not available and they could go to their respective polling stations to vote manually.
Manually counting 10% votes is always going to be easier than manually counting and verifying 100% of the votes.
Experts are claiming that these are just delaying tactics or the ECP simply doesn’t have any idea how to implement electronic voting machines.