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.