ISLAMABAD: While the government has been accusing the opposition of needlessly creating controversy over magnetic ink, it seems the issue is much larger than previously thought.
Despite doubts over the effectiveness of the magnetic ink and whether the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) was capable of verifying thumb impressions, the ink appears to have served its purpose of distinguishing thumb impressions quite well, according to a report.
A NADRA report probing irregularities in NA-202 Shikarpur-I, discovered that one voter in the constituency had cast votes a staggering 310 times.
“Voter Hadi Buksh, son of Khanpur district resident Saki Jatoi, voted 310 times at the polling station No. 209,” read the report, removing doubt over NADRA’s ability to verify thumb impressions on votes.
“There is no doubt this revelation was made possible due to the use of magnetic ink,” a senior official of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) told The Express Tribune. “The credit goes to the ECP, NADRA and the Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (PCSIR) for coming up with the idea,” he said.
According to sources, NADRA has also developed a system to verify thumb impressions on as many as 100,000 votes a day. They said the authority had set up a special cell in this regard, which comprises 150 employees who are under oath to abstain from any interaction with the media or anyone else.
The cell, the sources added, will continue its work even if incumbent chairman Tariq Malik – whose removal by the government has been stayed by the Islamabad High Court – is forced to leave the office.
“The ECP is happy with the discovery and is waiting for the election tribunal to decide the fate of the person identified [as responsible for the multiple votes],” the ECP official said. “A person involved in voting irregularities has been caught for the first time and should receive exemplary punishment.”
He added that if the ECP found the punishment awarded by the tribunal as lacking, it would take “suo motu notice and award punishment which will set a precedent.”
“Although the matter is sub judice and we don’t want to put pressure on the election tribunals, we ask them to award exemplary punishment in such cases.”
Responding to a question, he said that while the use of magnetic ink has become controversial, the commission has found a direction and is moving on the right path.
“We should not overlook the positive aspect that we have developed a system… a deterrent which will make people think twice before carrying out any foul play in elections,” he said. The official added that the magnetic ink would be standardised for the upcoming local government elections in three provinces.
But as optimism prevails in the ECP, the Lahore High Court has barred NADRA from verifying thumb impressions in NA-118 Lahore. The authority had been asked to carry out the process by the election tribunal set up for the constituency. The court stayed the process after Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz lawmaker Riaz Malik – who secured victory in the constituency – contended that there was no legal provision for verifying votes through thumbprints.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 30th, 2013.