After much criticism from political circles, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday reversed its decision of asking over 200 lawmakers to submit verified copies of their educational certificates or face criminal proceedings.
An eight-member parliamentary committee, headed by law minister Farooq H Naek, held a meeting with ECP and expressed reservations over the letter written to 249 lawmakers on February 7. The letter had evoked a strong reaction, with members of both houses of Parliament terming it an insult to elected representatives.
ECP sources said the commission has reached an understanding with the visiting parliamentary committee under which, the lawmakers would not be asked to produce copies of their certificates and the Higher Education Commission (HEC) will be responsible to do it on its own.
Under this written agreement in case of a negative report from the HEC based on proof provided by the concerned university, the ECP will take action in accordance with law after due notice to the candidate concerned.
The election authorities have decided to launch a two-week special voters’ registration campaign to facilitate all eligible citizens in getting their votes registered before election schedule is announced.
The commission will be writing letters to the top leadership of all the mainstream political parties asking them to cooperate with ECP in creating awareness among the masses in this regard, an official said.
Talking to reporters, ECP additional secretary Muhammad Afzal Khan said around 15 million people so far have checked the status of their vote through an SMS service launched last year.
Over 80 million voters have been registered in the electoral rolls. The electoral rolls would continue to be updated till election schedule is announced.
Afzal Khan said it would be last chance for all eligible citizens to get their votes registered now.
He said all offices of the ECP throughout the country will be providing this service 24 hours for which a notification will be issued within a couple of days.
PM, NADRA chairman meeting
Meanwhile Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, in his meeting with National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) Chairman Tariq Malik, directed him to issue computerised national identity cards (CNIC) to the unregistered population and ensure that nobody is disenfranchised by the upcoming elections.
According to NADRA, it has issued overall 93.4 million CNICs. Thirty million cards have been issued free of cost.
Chairman also informed the PM that their focus has been on Sindh and Balochistan keeping in view the low registration as compared to other provinces.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 1st, 2013.