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NADRA, ECP passing buck on poll rigging

10 October, 2013

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ISLAMABAD: The National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) and the Election Commission of Pakistan have taken conflicting positions on rigging in the constituencies NA-256 and NA-258.

NADRA said on Wednesday that magnetic ink was not used during election in NA-256 and NA-258. Speaking at a press conference along with election commission Secretary Ishtiak Ahmad, NADRA Chairman Tariq Malik stated that as a result 57,000 votes in the NA-256 constituency could not be verified. Addressing the issue of rigging in elections, he added, "If thumb verification was done at the polling stations then the problem of rigging in elections will no longer exist." Malik said that NADRA had recommended to the election commission the use of magnetic ink of special quality so that thumb impressions could be read afterwards.

He, however, said magnetic ink was not used in the National Assembly constituencies NA-256 and NA-258. He said that the thumb impressions on about fifty-seven thousand ballot papers of NA-256 could not be read by NADRA system as they were not up to the mark. He said NADRA would also examine ballots of six other constituencies and it would become clear whether or not magnetic ink was used there. He said the authority verified ballot papers that contained readable thumb impressions.

The election commission secretary, however, said PCSIR (Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research) had undertaken the task of preparing magnetic ink of the desired properties and supply it for seventy thousand polling stations and the same ink was provided, and the ECP was only responsible for making policies. Ishtiak Ahmad said fourteen election tribunals - three each in Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan and five in Punjab - are hearing about four hundred petitions and the commission would implement the verdict of the tribunals in these cases.

He said retired district and sessions judges were appointed as members of these tribunals and they would expeditiously process all these petitions. He said that for the first time voter lists containing photographs of voters were used and thumb impressions of voters were affixed on the ballot papers for subsequent verification. He said the system has started bearing fruit and hoped that the exercise would ensure more fairness in the electoral process in the future.

Ahmed said, "A new system is in place which includes a biometric system as well. As a result of this new things are expected to come out." "The election tribunals are listening to 400 complaints," he added. Both NADRA chairman and election commission secretary said electronic voting machines would be used for national, provincial and local elections after two years. These machines would also have biometric system making it possible to verify thumb impressions of voters at the time of casting of ballot rather than afterwards, as is being done now.

They urged media and political parties to wait for the judgements on election petitions by election tribunals and refrain from jumping to conclusions. NADRA chairman said the authority would be giving a demonstration to the interior minister about the prototype of the machine soon. Meanwhile, election commission secretary observed that legal cover would also be needed for use of electronic voting.

Acting CEC takes notice of alleged rigging in NA-256, NA-258

Acting Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jilani on Wednesday took note of alleged rigging in two constituencies in Karachi.

The acting CEC ordered a probe into the revelation that magnetic ink was not used in NA-256 and NA-258. In its order, he asked for explanation from the Sindh Election Commission as to why the magnetic ink was not arranged. The National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) chief Tariq Malik had appealed to the acting CEC to investigate the matter.

On Monday, a NADRA report revealed that that over 57,000 votes could not be verified in the constituency as magnetic ink was not used during voting. It further disclosed that 5,893 duplicate and 1,950 fake votes were cast in the election. Muttahida Qaumi Movement's Iqbal Muhammad Ali had won the seat. His win was later challenged by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's Muhammad Zubair Khan.

In NA-258, only 2,400 of the total votes cast in the NA-258 constituency, Karachi, were genuine, according to the NADRA. PML-N's candidate Abdul Hakim Baloch had won on this seat.

End.

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