ECP announces voter thumbprint verification

NADRA to assist poll body in exercise to root out fake votes; no provision exists in electoral laws.


Our Correspondent May 21, 2013
NADRA. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD:


The Election Commission of Pakistan announced on Monday that, for the first time ever, votes will be verified by matching thumbprints with the National Database and Regulatory Authority’s database, despite the absence of any provision in electoral laws for this purpose. 


ECP Secretary Ishtiaq Ahmed Khan and Chairman Nadra Tariq Malik jointly announced the decision. Malik said the database authority currently does not have the system to verify the huge number of thumbprints, but that it will achieve the ability to do so in two weeks time.

Sources told The Express Tribune that Nadra had sent several letters to the ECP asking whether the commission wanted it to verify votes through thumbprints but there was no reply. It had sent the first letter on June 19, 2012 and then on March 13, 2013 but there was no reply from the commission, sources added.  Now that the elections are over, that response has finally come.

“The commission has given a No Objection Certificate to NADRA for upgrading its system for the verification of votes through thumbprints,” a source said.



“The people have come to vote due to their trust in Nadra but they might not vote in the next elections if their stolen votes are not detected,” Malik said.

“If the sovereignty of votes is compromised in a country, there is a serious security issue. We will identify those who are responsible for stealing the people’s mandate.”

Malik said each thumb impression will be manually verified and the cost of verification (Rs10-Rs15 per vote) will be shared by the interim government and the electoral candidates.

The ECP secretary added that with the required system improvement in place, Nadra will be able to verify 500,000 votes per day.

Meanwhile, Justice (retd) Tariq Mehmood, a former member of the ECP, told The Express Tribune there was no provision in the electoral laws which allow verification of votes matching thumbprints.

The election tribunals are not supposed to take orders from the ECP, Mehmood said, adding that “sanctity of the ballot is involved in this matter and such decisions are taken only in extraordinary circumstances.”

He said the commission had no authority to give such directions and the decision can only be made by the election tribunals.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 21st, 2013.

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