A letter written by the Election Commission of Pakistan to Nadra about the possible leak of electoral rolls data has raised fears that the personal information of all Pakistani citizens may be compromised. The ECP letter refers to reports in the media alleging that elements within Nadra may have provided unauthorised information to outsiders. As far as we know, there is less to this than meets the eye. The complaints about voter information being leaked are being voiced most loudly by the PTI, which has claimed that this shows that the elections are being rigged. But the voter information provided by Nadra which so incensed the PTI was basic statistical information on the make-up of the electorate. Not only was no personal information leaked, the law requires Nadra to publicise these demographic breakdowns. To accuse the body of improperly leaking voter data using only this as evidence unnecessarily creates fear about the way the elections are being conducted and wrongly undermines faith in our democracy. Now that the ECP has written the letter, Nadra should conduct a complete investigation just to make sure that there have been no instances of information being improperly accessed.
Just because this particular complaint may have been overblown does not mean that there is no threat to sensitive voter information. Nadra does indeed have a vast repository of voter data and we do not know what safeguards are in place to ensure that data is kept safe. The ECP too is in possession of the electoral rolls and needs to make sure that there are no breaches. Overall, it is the responsibility of the ECP to ensure the integrity of the elections, not just when it comes to safeguarding our personal data but to promptly address all complaints from voters and political parties. If it finds such complaints to be without merit, it needs to say so quickly so that fear does not spread. One reason the 2013 elections became so controversial is because unsubstantiated allegations of rigging were not quickly denied and disproven. Given how complicated and close these elections are expected to be, we need to make sure everything is done to make then as free and fair as is possible. Whether its allegations of rigging or worries about data security, it is the job of the ECP to take action on complaints that can be substantiated but also to speedily disprove any false accusations.