ISLAMABAD: Process to obtain a CNIC needs to be simplified and incentives should be given to encourage women to get identity cards so that over 10 million women missing from electoral roles can be brought on the lists to help them exercise their right to vote.
Federal Minister for Human Rights Mumtaz Ahmed Tarar shared these views while speaking as chief guest and chair of at a high level roundtable of policymakers titled Closing the Gender Gap in the Electoral Rolls on Friday.
National Commission on The Status of Women (NCSW) organised the seminar in collaboration with the project Tabeer — Consolidating Democracy in Pakistan with the participation of key stakeholders including parliamentarians, the Election Commission of Pakistan, political party leaders and civil society experts to generate recommendations on special measures needed to close the gender gap in the electoral rolls prior to the 2018 general elections.
The human rights minister commended the participants for their spirited dialogue, calling for their recommendations to be submitted to the ministry so that they can be implemented on an urgent basis.
Senator Farhatullah Babar highlighted the need to act with urgency to close the gender gap prior to the next elections, saying “If NADRA continues to issue cards at its current capacity it will take 15 to 20 years to close the gender gap in the rolls. Special emergency legislation or administrative measures are required to empower NADRA with the necessary resources to increase its pace of registration because time is very short.”
NCSW Chairperson Khawar Mumtaz called for the ECP, NADRA, political parties and the government to work with urgency to bring an estimated 10 million missing women of voting age onto the electoral rolls. She underscored that the 2018 elections cannot be fully inclusive if the right to vote is not provided to these women through proactive state measures to issue CNICs. She said that NCSW will also launch a nationwide campaign of collective action to close the electoral rolls gender gap.
ECP Gender and Social Inclusion Additional DG Nyghat Siddiqui gave an overview of the recently launched joint initiative with NADRA to conduct female CNIC and voter registration in 79 districts where the gender gap is particularly high.
Tahir Mehdi, an elections expert with Tabeer-Consolidating Democracy in Pakistan, briefed the attendees on the current situation, noting that the gender gap in the electoral rolls has been growing steadily since possession of CNIC was made a requirement to be included in the electoral rolls. He explained that women are less likely to have a CNIC for a host of cultural and socioeconomic reasons and as a result CNIC requirement has had a disproportionate impact on women. He stated that since a CNIC is a requirement for voter eligibility, the possession of a CNIC is also the right of every citizen. The state must provide for this right,” he concluded.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 16th, 2017.