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Mumtaz Alvi
Friday, October 11, 2013
From Print Edition
 
 

 

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (PCSIR) on Thursday said it had supplied 445,333 magnetised (ink) pads sealed in boxes to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and these were more than enough for over 80 million registered voters during May 2013 general elections.

 

“We duly fulfilled our responsibility as per the specifications spelt out by the Election Commission as well as the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) necessary for biometric verification of voters,” asserted PCSIR Chairman Dr Shoukat Parvez during an informal chat with The News here at his office, located on the Constitution Avenue, hardly a furlong away from the ECP Secretariat.

 

The Election Commission has said that provision of magnetised ink was the responsibility of PCSIR for the elections, when Nadra revealed recently that the specific ink was not used in Karachi’s two constituencies while over 70,000 (voters) thumb impressions could not be verified due to this anomaly in NA-256. Nadra claims magentised ink was also not used in NA-258. A wave of concern and anxiety has gripped the Election Commission which had a meeting again on Thursday to review the issue.

 

On reaching the PCSIR headquarters, this correspondent was told that the chairman and his staff was busy in a Mehfil-e-Milad and would be free after half an hour. “No at all. We are not to be blamed for the mess pinpointed by Nadra,” said Dr Shoukat, when asked was the event arranged in view of the magnetic ink controversy.

 

He explained that one pad was enough for 250-400 persons and hence the numbers of pads they supplied to the Election Commission were more than enough to ensure each and every voter used it so that there was no chance of bogus vote casting. The ink on thumb of a voter takes five seconds to dry up.

 

During the course of chat, he received a telephonic call from the Ministry of Science and Technology Secretary, who inquired about the ink issue and got assurance from the chairman that there was no wrong committed from their side.

 

To a question, the chairman said that an unsealed pad was useful for 4-6 hours while sealed one was valid for up to six months. PCSIR successfully prepared the pad after proper quality check while its transportation from the council’s laboratory was responsibility of the Election Commission.

 

He said initially ECP’s deputy director general services S M Saeed placed an order of 423,335 pads and then it was increased to 445,334 pads. The work on development of the ink was started in May 2012 and the final pad was okayed by the Election Commission on February 28.

 

The chairman shared the dates on which pads were handed over to the ECP for transportation to different parts of Pakistan while for Sindh, 111,000 pads were given to the Election Commission on May 03 while for other three provinces, pads supply was made earlier than that.

 

The manufacturing process, he explained consisted of dissolution of dye into solvent (diethylene glycol) and water and the mixture is heated with constant stirring. After the desired viscosity is achieved, nano particles of iron oxide are added. Then heating is stopped and the ink is allowed to cool down to room temperature. Isopropanol is added at the end of the procedure and the ink is stored in sterile condition.

 

He said the pads were doused in the ink for six hours and then pressed through padder machine to obtain required quantity of ink/pad and finally the pads were packed in polythene bags and placed in plastic boxes for transportation.

 

About the utility of the magnetised pad, he said that when a voter puts his or her thumb impression with magnetised ink on electoral rolls, the nano particles of iron are transformed on electoral roll. When this thumb impression is exposed to magnetic reader of the machine, nano particles get magnetised and the thumb impression is transformed from sensors to the screen and it is matched with the actual thumb impression of a voter in the database and thus he or she is identified.

 

The price charged by PCSIR for each pad is Rs199 while the Election Commission has so far released Rs120 million to the council and Rs30 million was still outstanding.