Monday, October 10, 2011

Election Commission blames NADRA and floods for delay

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) will not be able to complete the verification of fresh electoral rolls in time to meet the March 2012 deadline, Provincial Election Commissioner Sono Khan Baloch said on Monday.

The ECP planned to finish verifying voters by October 30. It then takes six weeks for the lists to be published and another three weeks to put the rolls under new inspection. Corrections are made at this stage at the commission’s district offices. In the last two phases, they planned to verify or add names through short text messages, to finally publish the lists by March 2012.

“Verification of voters displaced in rural Sindh and the rectification of lapses in preparing voter data are the main causes of the anticipated delay,” Baloch explained to the media at a consultative meeting with political leaders, civil society members and other stakeholders.

Baloch held the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) responsible for errors in the electoral list drafts. He explained that the authority had mangled data on CNICs when it came to family numbers and areas.

“Due to mistakes in NADRA’s data, members of one family have become scattered in separate polling blocks,” he alleged. “This means a family living in a particular area will be casting its votes at two or more separate polling stations.”

He added that, while cumbersome, NADRA’s errors would take less time to fix as compared to the time it would take to verify and register voters in flood-hit areas. However, the election commissioner could not elaborate on whether they would correct NADRA’s data on CNIC holders before the electoral rolls were rectified.

“Besides NADRA, we also collect data from district administrations and registration is also carried out by the staff and hired staff of the ECP itself,” he said.

ECP member Justice (retd) Roshan Essani told the gathering that verification teams have begun work in flooded areas from where water is receding.

Haphazard lists

Sindh Fisheries Minister Zahid Bhurgari, PPP workers and residents of Qasimabad and rural tehsils of Hyderabad complained of omissions of their areas’ voters from the rolls. They also claimed that voters in the City and Latifabad tehsils of Hyderabad have been duplicated.

“Voters of union council 1 of the City tehsil are also registered in union council 2 which is a clear case of the doubling of votes,” Bhurgari told The Express Tribune. He alleged that the issue is most common in the City and Latifabad lists.

The two tehsils are considered Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) strongholds while the Qasimabad and rural Hyderabad tehsils always return Pakistan Peoples Party members.

The 2011 electoral roll draft has around 1.13 million voters in Hyderabad – up from 922,214 in 2007.

“The list is likely to have more names after the omissions are sorted out,” Aijaz Anwar Chauhan, assistant election commissioner, assured The Express Tribune.

The MQM, on the other hand, had its own objections. A member of the party’s zonal committee complained about the increase in the number of voters in Qasimabad. However, MQM MPA Suhail Yousuf intervened, saying that the party has no oppositions to an increase or decrease in voters in any part of the city.

PPP’s Roshan Solangi, meanwhile, explained the population surge in Qasimabad by pointing out the number of people migrating into the town from Latifabad, City and other districts. Qamar Din Lakho of PPP’s rural Hyderabad tehsil made a surprising revelation – 15,000 people from his area who filled out NADRA forms for CNICs back in 2008 are still waiting for their cards.

“We re-registered all of them again in 2010 only to be told that any applicant with a duplication of data cannot be issued the CNIC.”

Mukhtiar Korejo, a resident of Jamshoro district, informed the ECP officials that their staff has yet to reach 20 per cent of the district’s population that lives in mountainous areas.

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