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April 27, 2018

Voters’ data: MPs body gave no weightage to Nadra, ECP concerns

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April 27, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Nadra and ECP officials had warned the Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms not to expose database of over 100 million voters for risks of possible misuse of this national data by hackers and criminals but their serious reservations were ignored by the MPs.

The News on Thursday, while referring to cyber experts’ view, had highlighted an extremely risky aspect of the forthcoming general elections where voters’ personal data, including the photos of both men and women, would be exposed for possible misuse.

However, now it is found by this correspondent that Nadra, which is the custodian of Pakistani nationals’ database, as well as the ECP officials had also warned the Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reform (PCER) to desist from making voters’ data available to anyone. However, according to an informed source, the committee not only rejected the Nadra and ECP’s concerns but snubbed their officials too.

According to the minutes of the 88th meeting of the sub-committee of the Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms, “Regarding reservations expressed by Nadra representatives about provision of copies of electoral rolls to the candidates in both hard and soft (searchable USB-PDF format) with photographs of voters, the Sub-Committee decided that these reservations may be submitted in writing to the PCER which had decided the issue in the last meeting.”

Sources said that like Nadra, the ECP had also expressed its concern over exposing the national data to local as well as foreign hackers, anti-state elements and other criminals. However, when the issue was taken up in the main committee- PCER-, these departments’ concerns were rejected and the committee decided to make its proposal part of the Election Act 2017.

“After listening to the views of Nadra and ECP, the main PCER had unanimously agreed and decided that since they are legislators so they wanted to bring new change in Act that will allow to give softcopy of electoral rolls along with photographs on USB,” an official source who was present in the meeting said, adding, “They even snubbed the officials.”

As reported by The News on Thursday, official experts warned that in the Election Act 2017 a major blunder has been committed under which the whole country’s database of voters’ list severely becomes vulnerable.

These sources quote Section 79(3) of the Election Act 2017 as seriously problematic. The Section 79 deals with the supply of final electoral rolls and provides for: “(1) The Commission shall provide the Returning Officer for each constituency with copies of final electoral rolls for all the electoral areas within that constituency. (2) The Returning Officer shall provide the Presiding Officer of each polling station with copies of the final electoral rolls containing the names of the voters entitled to vote at that polling station. (3) On the application of a candidate or his election agent, the District Election Commissioner or any officer authorised in this behalf by the Commission shall provide to a candidate or an election agent a hard and searchable soft copy on universal serial bus (USB) in portable document format (PDF) or any other tamper-proof format of the final electoral roll with photographs of the voters and shall ensure that the copy is the same as provided to the Returning Officer and Presiding Officers.”

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