Overseas Pakistanis: NADRA seeks ECP approval for voting software

Published: April 1, 2013
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The approval has to come before April 5 for timely deployment of the system. DESIGN: EMA ANIS

The approval has to come before April 5 for timely deployment of the system. DESIGN: EMA ANIS

ISLAMABAD: 

Using option of intranet facility, the information technology experts of National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) on Sunday came up with a user-friendly and safe software to enable overseas Pakistanis to cast their votes in 2013 elections.

The authority, however, needs approval from Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) before April 5 in order to set up the software in 15 countries for it to be used in the upcoming polls.

“It is the most simple and secure form of voting only if it is successfully deployed on time,” said Tariq Malik, chairman NADRA while briefing journalists about the software.

“The ECP has to check its feasibility and all political parties have to grant their approval within next five days.”

The NADRA chairman said that the software would be presented before the ECP and Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP) on Monday.

Besides giving a go-ahead, NADRA requires ECP to make 70 per cent advance payment, from the total cost of US dollar 1.5 million, for deployment of the software.

The poll body also has to coordinate with ministry of foreign affairs to seek permission for setting up polling stations in countries where congregations and gatherings are not permitted. These countries included Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states where more than 70 per cent of the registered Pakistani overseas voters reside.

“NADRA needs time to deploy the software at 150 polling stations in 15 countries. It is essential for all concerned to give us the go-ahead before April 5,” said Malik.

Malik said that the project would cost ECP 1.5 million dollars which was the minimum possible expense.

Each polling station has to be equipped with a computer, printer, thumb digitiser and a reliable, secure intranet connectivity.

“Using intranet was the safest option as internet could jeopardise the security of electoral lists,” said the NADRA chairman.

Malik said the software was prepared by NADRA’s software engineers within 48 hours. It was feasible enough to be used in the upcoming elections but it all depends on ECP’s swift decision making, the chairman added.

How it works

An individual will be required to have the National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistani (NICOP), Machine Readable Passport (MRP) and registration in Final Electoral Rolls to be eligible to cast vote.

The intranet system, that would be deployed at different polling stations in Pakistan’s missions abroad, will work in three ways – it will provide information on the voters, will enable voters to cast vote and assist in result management.

All overseas voters will be linked to foreign missions abroad and they would have the option of casting votes from any of them. The voter will have to be physically present at mission with both NICOP and MRP.

At the computer installed at the polling booth, voter will be required to enter the NICOP number, after which the computer will capture the left thumb’s impression and confirm identity by matching the fingerprint with NADRA’s record.

Once the identity is confirmed, the voter will be linked to the constituency electronically against both national and provincial assemblies. Next, the voter will see a list of candidates on screen.

“Vote would be casted in ECP database without retaining identity record of the voter,” said Malik.

A paper trail will be printed by the computer containing all details of the vote casted which will be sent to ECP through a “diplomatic bag” later, the chairman added.

On the software, it takes a voter only a couple of minutes to cast the vote.

For difference in time zone, the NADRA chairman suggested overseas polling to be arranged 2-3 days prior to election day in Pakistan. He added that expired NICOP and MRP would be acceptable for casting vote.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 1st, 2013.

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Reader Comments (46)

  • Usama
    Apr 1, 2013 - 1:24PM

    1.5 million US Dollars for the software build by there own team in 48 hours.I smell fish.

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  • Yasmin Butt
    Apr 1, 2013 - 1:33PM

    It is a very good mission and I hope Tariq Malik and his colleagues succeed without any hinders.

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  • PTI Supporter
    Apr 1, 2013 - 1:45PM

    … to set up the software in 15 countries for it to be used in the upcoming polls.

    Which these 15 countries are? Names?

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  • PTI ZINDABAD
    Apr 1, 2013 - 1:53PM

    This would be the best initiative taken so far in the history of election commission. Excellent work NADRA.

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  • Sadaf tanveer
    Apr 1, 2013 - 1:53PM

    Definitely waiting to vote for a change!!

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  • Jibran
    Apr 1, 2013 - 2:12PM

    Malik said the software was prepared by NADRA’s software engineers within 48 hours.

    Designed in 2 hours, developed in 45 hours, and 45 minutes, and 10 minutes of testing. Wow, overly confident about the performance of his engineers.

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  • Atif
    Apr 1, 2013 - 2:15PM

    @Usama:
    I smell great talent.

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  • usman
    Apr 1, 2013 - 2:16PM

    April fool?

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  • usman
    Apr 1, 2013 - 2:17PM

    1st April fool?

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  • Junaid
    Apr 1, 2013 - 2:28PM

    Voters will need National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistani (NICOP), Machine Readable Passport (MRP) and registration in Final Electoral Rolls to be eligible to cast vote. Most overseas Pakistanis do not have all 3 of these. Especially the labor class in Middle East. Most of the voters will not be able to vote because of this condition. Secondly, software abuse/failure is a possibility. Instead NADRA should focus on its key job of issuing passports. Currently, passport issuance takes over 1 month instead of the 1-2 weeks. Primary cause is quoted as absence of paper for passport. $1.5million can buy a lot of paper for the MRPs

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  • Zia
    Apr 1, 2013 - 2:32PM

    @Usama:
    This would be third party software. Cost would be related to License of software

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  • Zog
    Apr 1, 2013 - 2:49PM

    Well done NADRA…outstanding….

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  • Muntazir
    Apr 1, 2013 - 2:53PM

    @Usama: The Software including the instruments like computers. printers, thumb detectors, intranet facilities etc would cost $1.5 m that would be deployed in atleast 15 countries..

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  • Apr 1, 2013 - 3:17PM

    This is essential and I hope it happens, well done NADRA!

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  • Apr 1, 2013 - 3:27PM

    I will do it for free …. if i am given opportunity….

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  • Samar
    Apr 1, 2013 - 3:36PM

    After all door of rigging the election have been closed by both the demoratic parties! RIGGING THROUGH OVERSEAS VOTE!! is something the establishment mafia has been working on for last 5-6 months!!I have been telling this for last 4-5 months!! Establishment mafia will rig and manipulate the coming election through overseas votes note it!

    This sort of practice of voting is not even done in advanced societies, as there is a huge and easy chance of rigging and manipulation! And we want to imply it here, where we have a proven history of rigging and manipulation by establishment mafia!!Recommend

  • Imdad Ali Shah-Dubai
    Apr 1, 2013 - 3:38PM

    Well done ECP, NADRA and SC :)

    Pakistan Zindabad!

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  • From Oman
    Apr 1, 2013 - 3:38PM

    How do I check if I am registered voter as, I have not done it physically ever. Am I registered automatically by having NICOP???

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  • Ajamal
    Apr 1, 2013 - 3:47PM

    @Junaid: All overseas Pakistanis (or at least a large majority) have a NICOP and MRP. Manual passport is no longer being issued, and is not accepted for visa stamping. ID issued from overseas NADRA is always NICOP and even in Pakistan, one can ask NADRA to get issued NICOP instead of CNIC.

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  • Fahad Hafeez
    Apr 1, 2013 - 4:09PM

    Its high time such technology is used , also this method should be used all over Pakistan this is a really secure way of ensuring that the vote is genuine. No lists nothing all votes with thumbprint and NIC ! , just the right way !.

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  • maria zameer
    Apr 1, 2013 - 4:17PM

    @usama

    1.5 million is not the cost of the software. it is the cost of implementing it at 150 polling stations in 15 countries which will include flights, accommodations and related expenses of the team that will be installing this software and equipment at the polling stations.

    @Junaid

    All labour expats are required by law to have NICOPS and MRPs. Please do not comment if you do not have proper info. People like you create confusion for no reason.

    Great step in the history of Pakistan!Recommend

  • Shafiq ur Rehman
    Apr 1, 2013 - 4:26PM

    In ideal conditions a voter will cast his vote in couple of minutes. In realty it will different,
    long cues, system breakdown, incompetent operators, slow network, software crashes, difficulties for getting dry thumb impressions, shortages of computers, thumb scanners, operators. Everything will be messed up. NADRA is asking more 1.5mUSD. Usually our Govt IT systems are always poorly designed and managed.

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  • Apr 1, 2013 - 4:47PM

    After necessary Security checks.. ECP should use this software allover Pakistan.. It can help to prevent Bogus Voting..

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  • Sajjad Ahmed
    Apr 1, 2013 - 4:47PM

    @Usama: They are asking Rs 1.5 for deployment of software at different foreign missions. Thats not much, seeing the purpose.

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  • Sajjad Ahmed
    Apr 1, 2013 - 4:50PM

    Such a software n facility should be available at NADRA offices within Pakistan too, for use by voters that are not in their home towns (instead of present system of postal ballot).

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  • Usman
    Apr 1, 2013 - 5:43PM

    I hope the ECP approves this on time without hurdles. I am only curious to know how and when the registration in Final Electoral Rolls will take place because registration inside Pakistan has completed.

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  • Usman
    Apr 1, 2013 - 5:45PM

    @Shafiq ur Rehman:
    But we need to get this done in this all crucial elections.

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  • Ali
    Apr 1, 2013 - 7:04PM

    I think it’s not being reported properly – On some other news sites, I see it reporting as if the software cost $1.5MM. I believe it’s the estimated cost of the whole project. which includes renting space, paying employees, setting up space etc.
    Seems like a great initiative. I’m all for it

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  • Chandni
    Apr 1, 2013 - 7:50PM

    Is this MRP has to be pakistani..? Because purpose of NICOP was also not to acquire pakistani visa and people can use it with MRP of any other country to get into the Pakistan. Only NICOP should have been fine.

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  • Pakistani
    Apr 1, 2013 - 8:00PM

    Whether the software is deployed or not, NADRA engineers deserve to be appreciated. Hats off team! This clearly shows the talent Pakistanis have.

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  • Bilal
    Apr 1, 2013 - 8:17PM

    in two days u can only make a fool out of ECP … not sure about the software with so many peripherals and distributed databases.

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  • Amir
    Apr 1, 2013 - 8:23PM

    Wow! what a great new way of rigging.

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  • UK Pakistani
    Apr 1, 2013 - 8:54PM

    I think NICOP card should be the only credential required for voting. Since the introduction of NICOP card, most UK based Pakistani use this to travel to Pakistan for visa free entry. MRP is not required anymore as people use British passport and NICOP card.

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  • Awais
    Apr 1, 2013 - 9:52PM

    What is our obesssion to proove that we always achieve the impossible. Software was built within 48 hours? As a software engineer we dont even develop small sccale programs within 48 hours and even if we did we dont boast about it to the presses. Very immature statment to make when this software is to be completely secure and we already have vote rigging issues every election.
    I do wish them well and I hope to cast my vote from the US.

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  • Tamur
    Apr 1, 2013 - 9:57PM

    Why does one need to show both NICOP and MRP? NICOP card should be sufficient as a CNIC is for a Pakistani voting in Pakistan. Secondly how and when will the voter registration take place? At the time of the vote? As far as the software is concerned I will believe it when I see it. If MRPs cannot be issued due to unavailability of paper, implementing a software is a tall order. Besides, not all Pakistani consulates are equipped to issue MRPs as yet.

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  • Nomair Naeem
    Apr 1, 2013 - 10:44PM

    @Usama:
    The cost is that of setting up the infrastructure: computer, thumb digitizer etc and not that of just the software alone.

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  • longislander
    Apr 1, 2013 - 11:20PM

    It makes no sense to me. How can one polling station will serve the Pakistani community in the whole country. Do they expect people will travel from California to New York to vote. They are spending 1.5m. Why can’t they just make an online program. It’s 21st century. They are fooling the nation and nothing else. There is no rocket science required in it. huhhh

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  • Faisal Naveed
    Apr 2, 2013 - 12:15AM

    It should be an online voting system I don’t think people here will have time to go to the polling station.

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  • naveed
    Apr 2, 2013 - 12:20AM

    No doubt, this is bound to be misused!

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  • zahid ali khan
    Apr 2, 2013 - 12:31AM

    i have in dubai u a e but i want to submit vote

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  • Sofia
    Apr 2, 2013 - 1:32AM

    How can i vote

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  • Salman
    Apr 2, 2013 - 10:33AM

    Why NICOP+MRP only? ECP should accept CNIC+MRP as well. The condition of NICOP is to make money for the NADRA who are currently charging CAD$ 67/- per NICOP card. Furthermore, this will be an additional time consuming task for both the applicant and the NADRA. In the end numerous eligible voters will be left out. If CNIC is a valid ID for voting in Pakistan then why not abroad?

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  • Salman
    Apr 2, 2013 - 10:40AM

    Why NICOP+MRP only? ECP should accept CNIC+MRP as well. The condition of NICOP is to make money for the NADRA who are currently charging CAD$ 67/- per NICOP card. Furthermore, this will be an additional time consuming task for both the applicant and the NADRA. In the end numerous eligible voters will be left out. If CNIC is a valid ID for voting in Pakistan then why not abroad?

    Another alternative is to allow CNIC for Pakistani Citizens and NICOP for the dual citizens for polling votes.

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  • sanwal
    Apr 2, 2013 - 1:57PM

    If people don’t have a single day off to vote in their respective countries election, well then you also don’t have right to cry later about the problems !

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  • Hassan
    Apr 2, 2013 - 11:40PM

    If phillipinos can vote in saudi arabia so can the Pakistanis. If we need help in software we can always ask them read this article from TODAY’S ARAB NEWS:

    http://www.arabnews.com/news/446809

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  • shery
    Apr 3, 2013 - 2:55AM

    @Usama:
    Sir,If you read this article carefully its written that they need to have

    “Each polling station has to be equipped with a computer, printer, thumb digitiser and a reliable, secure intranet connectivity.”
    So it is pretty much possible.

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