ISLAMABAD - The biometric machines used as pilot project in by-polls in Haripur have exposed the weaknesses of Election Commission of Pakistan and NADRA in terms of the verification of voters list.

The ECP, after analysing the results of 60 biometric machines used in 30 polling stations in Haripur, has also acknowledged the drawbacks in the electoral system in which unverified voters also cast their votes.

As per biometrics readings recorded by NADRA, the biometrically verified voters were 46 per cent whereas unverified voters were 54 per cent. The reasons of not biometrically verified voters were due to non-availability of finger prints in NADRA database, invalid CNIC, block CNIC and callused fingers.

Going by the statement of ECP, it has been indicated that NADRA has not yet completed the list of genuine voters as the biometric machines have identified thousands of invalid voters in the test use of biometric machines in Haripur district.

According to ECP, the hard finger skin of voters made poor quality that was not recognised by the system.

“Since, the whole exercise was performed purely on experimental basis, therefore, the impact (positive or negative) of use of biometric machines in by-elections did not disturb the electoral process,” the ECP clarified in a statement, stating voters have manually cast votes in the seat.

The ECP installed 60 biometrics machines at 60 polling booths in 30 selected polling stations. These biometric machines were obtained from a local telecom service provider for the conduct of their experimental use.

“The total number of registered voters in these polling stations was 37,924 whereas the polled votes were 15,723. The turnout in these polling stations was 41 per cent where 54 per cent voters were identified as unverified,” the ECP said.

“This was the first ever pilot project conducted in the history of Pakistan in the by-election NA-19 Haripur held on August 16, 2015. We recommend that the biometric machines should be used in by-polls till we achieve positive results,” the statement added.

It said that ECP has successfully achieved the prime objective of the first pilot project that was to practically examine on ground the overall performance of the processes and procedures carried out during the Test Run of Biometric Machines .

This demonstration, it claimed, was extremely helpful to educate the stakeholders like contesting candidates, political parties, polling agents, polling staff, voters and general public about the significance of the use of biometric technology in the general election with its merits and demerits.

“This was the best approach to sensitise general public about its use in electoral activity by following the ‘principle of evolution’ in a careful manner instead of revolution (sudden change) while introducing new technology in elections,” Director General IT ECP Khizar Hayat said.

He recommended that the multiple pilot projects using biometrics shall be continued in different by-elections till the achievement of successful rate near to perfection where no legitimate voter would be deprived to get authenticated only because of any technical or operational reason.

The statement said that more pilot projects will be conducted on both Offline and Online methodologies to examine the success rate.