For free, fair elections: Law enforcers demand biometric voting for NA-246 by-polls

Published: April 14, 2015
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PHOTO: AFP

PHOTO: AFP

KARACHI: 

Anticipating trouble during the by-polls scheduled on the hot NA-246 seat on April 23, the law enforcers demanded on Tuesday the installation of a biometric system for voting and security cameras at all sensitive polling stations.

However, the provincial election commission pointed out that it is not the Ranger’s job to demand biometric voting in the elections. “It is the job of the election commission,” said provincial election commissioner Tanveer Zaki, who admitted he was not aware that the Rangers have made such a demand. “We have not received a copy of the letter therefore I cannot comment on it,” he said, promising that the election commission will respond once they have reviewed the contents of the letter.

According to the Pakistan Rangers, Sindh, spokesperson, the paramilitary force has written a letter to the Sindh home department to take extraordinary steps to maintain a peaceful environment on the day of the elections. The demand for biometric voting has been made earlier by political parties, such as the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, but it was the first time that the law enforcement agencies made such a demand.

The paramilitary force wrote to the home department that monitoring materials are needed to be installed in polling stations if the authorities want to ensure free, fair and transparent elections, said the Rangers spokesperson.

“We have demanded a total of 1,037 closed-circuit television cameras for all the 769 sensitive polling booths,” said a Rangers spokesperson. “Of these 213 will be used in polling stations and 65 will be used for all sensitive buildings.”

The spokesperson added that since the number of sensitive polling booths is so high, biometric system must be used for voting at these locations. If that is not possible, the government should at least install the system at the 372 female booths.

On Monday, the Rangers also announced an emergency helpline, 1101, for residents to inform them of any untoward incidents on the day of the by-polls. “Rangers director-general Major General Bilal Akbar strictly directed the troops to ensure that the code of conduct is followed by all candidates and supporters,” said the spokesperson, adding that strict action can be taken against the violators. The paramilitary troops have already chalked out a comprehensive security plan.

Meanwhile, Sindh IG Ghulam Haider Jamali has also prepared a security plan for the NA-246 by-elections. According to a Sindh Police press release, West Zone DIG Feroz Shah has prepared a security plan in which more than 5,500 policemen, including five SSPs, nine DSPs and 18 SHOs and inspectors will be deployed. The police have identified 55 buildings for rooftop deployment. Armoured personnel carriers and bulletproof vehicles will be placed at all identified flash points. Anti-riot platoons equipped with anti-riot kits will be on standby.

IG Jamali also ordered the deployment of Rapid Response Force and Special Security Unit commandos. He suggested a security rehearsal ahead of the deployment of these personnel. Karachi AIG Ghulam Qadir Thebo has been asked to convene a meeting before the deployment of the police personnel to let them know about their responsibilities so that no lapse takes place. Jamali also stressed the importance of women police deployment. “The plan was finalised after a coordination meeting with Pakistan Rangers and after a consultation with the Sindh election commissioner,” stated the press release.

According to a letter issued by the provincial election commission, the by-polls in the NA-246 constituency will be held on April 23 from 8am to 5pm, without any intervals. The decision was made by the Election Commission of Pakistan under Section 25 of Representation of the People Act, 1976.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 15th, 2015.

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Reader Comments (6)

  • Napier Mole
    Apr 15, 2015 - 1:40AM

    ECP has stated very correctly that it is ECP who should be deciding such matters, not rangers. Whats next; will rangers tell which election symbols should be allotted to which party. Rangers have already earned a reputation of partiality in Karachi; they should not make it worse.Recommend

  • S.R.H. Hashmi
    Apr 15, 2015 - 1:55PM

    Since the holding of elections is the responsibility of the Election Commission of Pakistan, it is natural for the Sind provincial election commissioner Tanveer Zaki to claim that it is not the Ranger’s job to demand biometric voting in the elections. However, since the Rangers have been entrusted the duty of looking after the law and order situations concerning the elections in NA-246, it would seem in order for them to make any suggestions which, in their view, could help in the orderly holding of the elections, except that such requests and suggestions should be made to, and processed by the concerned department, which happens to be the election. commission in this case.

    And while on the face of it, the biometric system would seem to be the ideal way of eliminating fictitious voting, it is essential to ensure that the system is not only sound in theory but also practical in application. And to ensure that, the system has to be thoroughly tested, and weaknesses and flaws removed, so as to make it as much poolproof as is humanly possible. And in the absence of such tests having been carried out, the system may not only not serve its purpose, but make the voting process far more faulty and prone to misuse, thus making it worse than a manual system.

    Obviously, with the election commission at the receiving end and being the punching bag in case of faulty elections, it is only natural, and fair that it should have the final say in whether or not to use the still untested biometric system for the forthcoming elections in NA-246 constituency.

    KarachiRecommend

  • Tariq Javed
    Apr 15, 2015 - 2:15PM

    Biomatric verification is demand of PTI, why all PTI demands are being met??? Rangers will be biased against MQM in this election and they must not be allowed inside polling stations.Recommend

  • Shazia Bangash
    Apr 15, 2015 - 5:44PM

    @S.R.H. Hashmi: The biometric system is based on off-the-shelf software that is being used in dozens of countries.It has also been tested heavily by the ECP and its private IT advisors. It would be next to impossible to manipulate the biometric system as you place you finger on the pad and your photo shows up immediately from NADRA’s records. On the other hand, the old manual system has a 100% chance of being manipulated and has been manipulated in almost all past elections. It is therefore not logical to reject a modern international system because it is “only 99% secure”, and to prefer to stay with the old system that is 99% corrupt. Recommend

  • Shazia Bangash
    Apr 15, 2015 - 5:48PM

    @Tariq Javed: You dont want biometric verification or rangers in the polling stations because it will make it impossible to cheat in Azizabad! MQM is against these measures like India was against neutral umpires and is still against DRS in cricket. Well done Rangers for requesting this, we hope the ECP will make the logical decision.Recommend

  • Apr 16, 2015 - 8:29PM

    There were many by-elections passed since may 2013 general elections but no one asked rangers inside polling boths and biometric system…if its implimented in all over pakistan for future elections, then i don’t mind it hence it will raise the fairness, but only for NA-246 then it shows biasness and a clear intend of military establishment give this seat to pti or ji unfortunately.Recommend

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