With the next general election scheduled for 2018, the ECP has given out some rather disturbing news. It seems at least 12.1 million women are missing from the electoral rolls, as has been revealed by the ECP’s director general for gender affairs. This is a shocking figure. How can a free, fair and representative election go ahead with 12.1 million missing women? Apparently, Nadra has no data about the missing women voters. The blame seems to have been placed on the absence of national identity cards but this is still not a legitimate excuse for why so many women have been omitted from the electoral rolls. The missing female voters are among a myriad of issues that the ECP faces when preparing for the 2018 elections. The controversies and disagreements over the new census figures and the process of delimitation of constituencies have already taken up a large amount of time and energy. In all that, we hope the issue of disenfranchised women is not forgotten.
The ECP has been empowered a bit more by the new electoral laws. It must take proactive action to ensure the full participation of women voters in all constituencies. The situation as it stands at the moment, with 12.1 million missing female voters, is not acceptable. No legitimate election can be conducted with so many voters simply excluded from the lists. This also brings up another issue. In many constituencies, women are prevented from exercising their right to vote – even when on the voters’ lists. The ECP has been given the power to declare a poll null and void if the number of women voters is less than 10 percent of the total votes polled. The enforcement of such a law will be a major victory for the democratic process in Pakistan. The missing female voters issue must be taken up as a national priority for any legal enforcement to be effective. The ECP has promised that Nadra will undertake an emergency mobile CNIC registration campaign. This needs to be planned and started very soon. The ECP then needs to report back within a pre-determined timeline on the progress made in identifying and registering the missing female voters. Otherwise, the next election will remain tainted.