The National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) on Tuesday finally informed the top election watchdog that it does not have the fingerprint record of more than 29,000 voters in the National Assembly constituency NA-120, Lahore where by-election is scheduled for September 17.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had sought from NADRA the data of all 321,786 voters registered in NA-120 in order to test run Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and the Biometric Verification Machines (BVM).
The Nadra provided the data to ECP last month. Upon analysing the data, the relevant department of the ECP found biometric fingerprints of 29,607 voters missing. This prompted the ECP to write back to the Nadra last week for the missing data.
In response, a top official of the ECP told The Express Tribune that Nadra told the commission on Tuesday that it does not have biometric fingerprints of the voters since their CNICs were made before Nadra started keeping record of fingerprints.
Having no record of fingerprints of such a big number of voters in a constituency which falls right in the heart of the country’s second biggest city is a big question mark. This implies there will be thousands more of such people in the country whose fingerprint record would not be available with the Nadra.
The ECP had announced to use the EVMs and BVMs as test run at the NA-120 constituency from where Kulsoom Nawaz, wife of deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif, is contesting after her husband’s disqualification by the apex court on July 28.
After assessing the situation, the ECP has decided to shelve the plan to use EVMs. It would go for test run of BVMs in 100 selected polling booths for now. The ECP had procured 150 EVMs and announced to conduct first pilot project of these machines in this constituency.
Earlier on July 9, the ECP was not able to test BVM during by-polls of the Sindh Assembly constituency PS-114 as Nadra had failed to share the voters’ data of the constituency with the ECP.
Earlier this year, the ECP had announced to test BVM for voters’ verification in PS-114 constituency as a pilot project and to submit its report to the parliamentary committee on electoral reforms which was working on new election laws. It could not do so, since Nadra did not provide data of voters to the ECP.
The Election Bill 2017, commonly known as electoral reforms bill, has been passed by the National Assembly and is now under consideration in the Senate. It has the provision to shift to modern technology gradually in order to make the election process transparent.
With shortcomings on part of allied departments and other technical issues involved, it seems the ECP might not be able to go for EVMs and BVMs during elections in the near future.
During 2013 general elections, the ECP had used some special ink tagged “magnetised ink” to get thumb impressions of every voter on counterfoils of ballot papers. The purpose of using this ink was to get thumb impressions of every voter verified through Nadra data in case of vote audit.
About Rs85 million were spent on purchasing magnetised ink and a total of Rs160 million on procuring indelible ink and magnetised stamp pads. Used in general elections without conducting any prior trial, the project was a debacle.
The Nadra failed to verify fingerprints of hundreds of thousands of votes that were sent to it during vote audit amid rigging controversy.
Last year, the ECP had announced not to use the so-called magnetised ink again, but rather use BVMs during general elections in the future.