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December 16, 2017

NCSW calls for bringing missing women voters onto electoral rolls


December 16, 2017

Islamabad: The current pace of issuance for women Computerised National Identity Cards (CNICs) is an estimated 3,000 per day. If this is increased to 5,000 per day, it would take 18 years to close the gender gap in electoral rolls.

The statistics were shared at a high-level roundtable of policymakers on ‘Closing the Gender Gap in the Electoral Rolls’ organised by National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) on Friday.

NCSW in collaboration with the project ‘Tabeer – Consolidating Democracy in Pakistan,’ convened key stakeholders including parliamentarians, the Election Commission of Pakistan, political party leaders and civil society experts to generate a dialogue and collect recommendations on special measures needed to close the gender gap in the electoral rolls prior to the 2018 general elections. The dialogue was moderated by former Parliamentarian Attiya Inayatullah. Minister for Human Rights Mumtaz Tarar was the chief guest on the occasion.

The speakers were of the opinion that in many constituencies, unregistered women of voting age could change election results if they are empowered to vote. It was shared that gender gap is not an issue of rural areas only. Only in Karachi and Lahore, the gender gap in registered voters in 1 million. The speakers identified that if CNIC for women continue to be issues at the current pace, the gender gap in the electoral rolls will continue to rise.

In her opening remarks, NCSW Chairperson Khawar Mumtaz called upon the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra), political parties and the government to take emergency measures for bringing an estimated 10 to 12 million missing women of voting age onto the electoral rolls. Chairperson Mumtaz underscored that the 2018 elections cannot be fully inclusive if the right to vote is not provide to these women through proactive state measures to issue CNICs.

Tahir Mehdi, an elections expert with Tabeer-Consolidating Democracy in Pakistan, briefed the participants on the current situation, noting that the gender gap in the electoral rolls has been growing steadily since possession of CNIC was made a requirement to be included in the electoral rolls. He explained that women are less likely to have a CNIC for a host of cultural and socioeconomic reasons and as a result CNIC requirement has had a disproportionate impact on women and excluded millions of them from the rolls.

Tahir Mehdi stated that since a CNIC is required to be on the electoral rolls and to submit ones vote on polling day, the possession of a CNIC is also the right of every citizen. He also talked about the new provisions in the Elections Act 2017 that call for the ECP and Nadra to take special measures to conduct female CNIC and voter registration in constituencies where the electoral rolls gender gap is greater than ten per cent. NCSW and Tabeer analysis reveals that in fact the gap is less than 10 per cent in only two districts out of 134 total districts.

Senator Farhatullah Babar said that currently Nadra has the capacity to issue 7000 CNICs per day whereas, to register the missing votes, 70,000 cards should to be issued every day. He suggested including multiple sources of identification for registering voters instead of only CNIC and said that all those recorded under current census shall be registered as voters. He also recommended emergency legislation to empower Nadra and special registration offices, mobile vans and incentives for women.

In his remarks Minister for Human Rights Mumtaz Tarar commended the participants for their spirited dialogue, calling for their recommendations to be submitted to the Ministry so that they can be implemented on an urgent basis. He said, “The process to obtain a CNIC needs to be simplified and incentives should be given to encourage women to get ID cards so that over ten million missing women can be brought on the electoral rolls to be able to exercise their right to vote.”

The event was also launch for a nationwide campaign of collective action to close the electoral rolls gender gap through CNIC registration. The campaign, to be led by NCSW, will be informed by the recommendations made at the roundtable and through upcoming consultations in each of the provinces.

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