Saturday, January 1, 2011

Identity card must to cast vote‎

By Ansar Abbasi
ISLAMABAD: In a major step towards electoral reforms in Pakistan, the government will soon move a draft law in parliament to make Nadra’s Computerised National Identity Cards (CNIC) mandatory for voting in elections.

Secretary Election Commission Ishtiaq Ahmad Khan told The News here on Friday that the bill was expected to be moved in the National Assembly during its ongoing session and when enacted would make the old NIC and other documents of identity invalid for voting. “The Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC) would be the unique identifier as per the law,” he said.

He explained that on the basis of computerised electoral rolls, a registered voter would be required to produce Nadra’s CNIC to cast the vote. The draft law, he said, had been finalised and sent to the Law Ministry to be moved in parliament for enactment.

Khan said that the draft bill would amend the two existing laws, the Electoral Rolls Act and Representation of Peoples’ Act, to introduce the reforms under which voting would be done on the basis of computerised electoral rolls whereas the voters would have to show the CNIC at the time of voting.

The secretary ECP said that the government was showing extreme keenness to get the draft law passed from parliament at the earliest. He said that the draft law had been prepared by the Election Commission in consultation with Nadra, Interior Ministry, Law Ministry and other stakeholders.

He said that through these reforms, rigging in voting would be comprehensively checked. The computerised electoral rolls would ensure that no voter was registered at two different places whereas the CNIC being the unique identifier would enable only the genuine voter to cast his vote by showing the genuine copy of the Nadra’s ID card.

“It would help resolve the decades old issue of rigged voting,” he said and added that work for the computerised electoral rolls had already been started and in the first step, electoral rolls in four districts, one in each province, had already been completed by the Election Commission with the help of Nadra.

In the second step, he said, the electoral rolls would be computerised all over Pakistan and this process would be completed by the end of 2011. These electoral reforms would set the stage for the next general elections to be held in a manner where fake ID cards would not work. Similarly, those political parties or politicians, who had a large number of old ID cards with them for use for voting would also not work.

Under the new system, the voters’ identity as well as the electoral rolls would be dependent on Nadra’s database, which is considered a remarkable achievement in Pakistan.

According to the secretary ECP, in addition to the above-discussed reforms, the commission is also closely working with the Telephone Industry of Pakistan (TIP) and Science and Technology authorities to introduce electronic voting machines to bring refinement in the electoral system.

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