ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has proposed various key changes in the legal framework, envisaging electoral processes, including an amendment in Article 51 of the Constitution to provide for carrying out delimitation of constituencies not later than a year before the completion of term of the respective assembly.
The amendments, needless to say, have been based mainly on the challenges faced by the Election Commission during the massive electoral exercise last year i.e. the general election 2018 and the record bye-elections. The Election Commission says that non-issuance of computeriSed national identity cards to women was the major reason behind significant gap between male and female voters.
To this effect, a detailed post-election review report on 2018 polls was released here at the Election Commission Secretariat in the presence of the Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Muhammad and other senior officials. It encapsulates the achievements made and challenges faced by the electoral body during various stages of elections, which include delimitation, revision of electoral rolls, appointment of polling staff, printing of ballot papers and introduction of new technology meant for swift transmission of election results. It also talks about the Senate and presidential polls.
The Election Commission has suggested amendment in Article 51 of the constitution to provide that fresh delimitation be carried out not later than one year before the completion of the term of the respective Assembly. Moreover, it says that the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) should prepare digitized maps showing details of locations and legends to avoid overlapping and chance of missing out any area in addition the provincial governments should provide maps strictly in accordance with the notified administrative units for delimitation exercises.
However, the Election Commission in its report describes as the foremost challenge the provision of inaccurate maps to the delimitation committees by the revenue departments. It pointed outs that accuracy of maps was a pre-requisite for error free delimitation. In some cases, maps corresponded neither to revenue record nor the census record. Therefore, the Committee repeatedly returned maps to Revenue Departments / local administrations for necessary rectification.
The report notes that the inconsistencies in revenue record also posed challenge, as there were some serious inconsistencies between revenue record and maps provided by district administration. For instance, in some cases the district administration for its convenience divided the area of a large patwar circle among two or more parts, without any notification.
The Election Commission calls on the government to take immediate steps for official publication of the Census Reports so that the delimitation of Local Government Elections could be timely carried out. Besides, in the chapter on electoral rolls, the Election Commission says the process was exceptionally challenging as the PBS provided the requisite data in December 2017; six months after the expected timeline. It claims the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) mentioned incomplete addresses in the national identity cards of citizens, which were reflected in the electoral rolls, making it difficult for the verifying officials to locate such voters and even allocation of an appropriate census block code.
It says that non-issuance of CNICs to women voters was the prime reason for the gap between male and female voters (over 12.5 million now). Therefore, it has asked the government to issue direction to NADRA for increasing registration of women, persons with disabilities, minorities and transgender persons by removing existing challenges and barriers. And that directions may also be issued to concerned authorities to simplify processes for PWDs to obtain disability certificate and issuance of NIC with disability logo by NADRA. Federal Government may direct NADRA to obtain accurate address of the applicant while filling of form for registration / issuance of NIC.
It has been proposed that sections 41 (2) and 79 (3) of the elections Act may be omitted to preserve sanctity and secrecy of voters. Under these sections candidates and polling agents can obtain hard and searchable soft copy of the final electoral rolls with photographs of voters including women.