Sindh seeks biometric machines for LG polls | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan Press Foundation

Sindh seeks biometric machines for LG polls

Pakistan Press Foundation

ISLAMABAD: In a move which may delay the electoral exercise beyond 2014, the Sindh government has conveyed to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) that it wants use of biometric machines in the local government elections in the province.

ECP Secretary Ishtiak Ahmad Khan told reporters on Thursday after the formal launch of the ECP’s second five-year strategic plan that after Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh had also requested the commission to introduce biometric verification of voters in the LG polls.

He indicated that the elections in KP would possibly take place in November.

He said the ECP had decided to introduce electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the 2018 general elections. It was a demand of all political parties, he added.

Mr Khan said features of the machine which would have in-built biometric verification system had been finalised and necessary orders issued for production of prototype machines for pilot projects. But he said the introduction of EVMs for general elections would require legislation by parliament.

The ECP secretary said 4.5 million expatriates holding national identity cards for overseas Pakistanis had been enrolled as voters, but enabling them to cast their votes at polling stations set up abroad would also require legislation.

He said the commission was preparing a draft package of electoral reforms, adding that reforming the electoral legal framework was on top of the 13 broader goals set under the second strategic plan.

He said that a key feature of the reforms package to be sent to the parliament sought to empower the ECP to take action against the polling staff, including returning officers, district returning officers and presiding officers, found involved in wrongdoings.

In reply to a question, Mr Khan said the ECP derived its powers from the Constitution and the law. Under the law, he said, if a detailed inquiry is required into an allegation of irregularity, it fell within the domain of election tribunals. Matters like last minute change in the polling scheme can also be raised before the tribunals.

About a report by the Free and Fair Elections Network on the number of rejected votes in 35 National Assembly constituencies outnumbering the difference between the votes secured by the winners and runners-up, the ECP secretary said it was not surprising.

“If the votes had been rejected without any ground, the issue could have been raised before the returning officer concerned. The returning officer invites all candidates before opening the bags containing votes,” he said.

He pointed out that 12 of the 35 seats had been won by the PML-N, six by independents, four by the PPP, three by the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F and one by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf.

Mr Khan underlined the need for fresh delimitation of national and provincial assembly constituencies in view of the demographic changes taken place over the years and called for holding the much-delayed population census in the country. A summary to this effect moved by the ECP has been approved by the prime minister and the matter is pending with the Council of Common Interests.

He said the ECP also planned to introduce geographical information system for delimitation to make the process foolproof and enable the candidates to see their constituencies on website.