ISLAMABAD - At a time when some political parties are fiercely complaining about poll rigging during the May 11 general elections, pressure is mounting on the departments concerned for failing to meet their constitutional responsibilities.
In a damage-control bid, Nadra Chairman Tariq Malik on Wednesday said that magnetic ink was not used during May 11 general elections in NA-256 and NA-258 constituencies, hence they were unable to verify votes. His comments came a couple of days after revelations were made that a Nadra report exposed massive rigging in NA-256 Karachi.
According to the report, 84,748 votes were cast in the constituency during the May 11 general elections and 11,343 ballot papers contained invalid Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC) numbers which were never issued by the registration authority. There were 5,839 duplicate votes. About 1,950 ballots CNIC numbers did not match with CNIC mentioned on the counterfoils.
The Nadra Chairman appeared along with Election Commission Secretary Ishtiaque Ahmad at a joint press conference on Wednesday. Both urged the media and political parties to wait for the judgments of election petitions by Election Tribunals and do not jump to conclusions.
Malik said no result should be drawn from the Nadra report as the case was still pending in the court. The Nadra chairman said that it was the ECP’s responsibility to procure magnetic ink for the voting process.
He said that ink samples provided in December and January were rejected, adding that sample which was sent in September last year was approved. Speaking on the occasion, the ECP secretary said that the system had started working. He said the world had applauded ECP system.
Ishtiaque Ahmed Khan said that the ECP had ordered re-polling in many constituencies. The Secretary Election Commission‚ however‚ said an elite institution, the Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (PCSIR), undertook to prepare magnetic ink of the desired properties and supply it for seventy thousand polling stations, and the same ink was provided.
Ishtiaque Ahmad said fourteen Election Tribunals - three each in Sindh‚ KPK and Balochistan and five in Punjab - are hearing about 400 petitions, and the commission would implement the verdict of the tribunals in these cases. He said that retired District and Sessions Judges were appointed as members of these tribunals and these would expeditiously process all the petitions.
He said that for the first time voter lists containing photographs of voters were used and thumb impressions of voters were affixed on the ballot papers for subsequent verification. He said the system has started bearing fruit and hoped that the exercise would ensure more fairness of electoral process in future.
The Nadra Chairman clarified that it had recommended to the Election Commission the use of magnetic ink of special quality to be able to read thumb impressions afterwards. He‚ however‚ said magnetic ink was not used in National Assembly constituencies NA-256 and NA-258.
He said thumb impressions of about fifty-seven thousand ballot papers of NA-256 could not be read by Nadra system, as they were not up to the mark. He said the Nadra would also examine ballots of six other constituencies and it would become clear whether or not magnetic ink was used there.
He said the authority verified ballot papers that contained readable thumb impressions. Both Nadra Chairman and Secretary Election Commission said electronic voting machines would be used for national‚ provincial and local elections after two years. These machines would also have biometric system making it possible to verify thumb impressions of voters at the time of casting of ballots.
The Nadra Chairman said the Authority would be giving a demonstration to the interior minister about prototype of the machine soon. The Election Commission Secretary said legal cover would also be needed for use of electronic voting.