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ISLAMABAD: Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Wednesday decided to seek from National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) the details of persons issued Computerised National Identity Cards (CNICs) in the backdrop of huge difference of more than 12.49 million voters between male and female voters in the voters' lists of the last general elections held on July 25, 2018.

The ECP, in a meeting, decided to seek the relevant details of the persons issued CNICs besides deciding to work in close coordination with NADRA to identify the reasons of huge gap between the number of male and female voters in addition to taking steps to bridge this gap, an official statement from the ECP said.

The Commission also instructed its Gender Affairs and Elections wings to identify those areas across the country that have huge disparity in the number of male and female voters and to take steps through a workable mechanism to end this disparity, the statement added.

In the voter lists of last general elections, known as Final Electoral Rolls (FERs) 2018, there were 105,955,409 registered voters including 59,224,263 male voters and 46,731,146 female voters. This implies that male voters were 12,493,117 more in number in comparison with female voters. Out of these 105,955,409, some 60,672,870 were registered in Punjab including 33,679,993 male and 26,992,877 female voters, 22,391,244 voters in Sindh including 12,436,844 male and 9,954,400 female voters, 15,316,299 voters in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa including 8,705,831 male and 6,610,468 female voters, 4,299,494 voters in Balochistan including 2,486,230 male and 1,813,264 female voters and 765,348 voters in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) including 407,463 male and 357,885 female voters.

ECP is relying on NADRA to remove disparities in the voters list at a time when the Commission is allegedly reluctant to pay outstanding dues to NADRA for technical assistance the Authority extends to Commission for the maintenance of voters lists.

In a top-level meeting between the ECP and NADRA officials held on May 11, 2020, Chairman NADRA Usman Yousaf Mobin categorically explained to the ECP officials that NADRA not only shares the data of the fresh voters (who obtain CNICs) with the Commission but also provides technical assistance to ECP for which the electoral body is liable to pay NADRA for its services in the light of a related agreement signed between ECP and NADRA.

"NADRA is an autonomous organisation and it does not receive any financial support from federal government. We rely on our operations/projects to generate revenues - mainly by providing technical assistance to different organizations. NADRA deserves to be paid by ECP for its services as both the sides have signed an agreement in this context," chairman NADRA was quoted as saying.

On the other hand, the ECP officials were of the view that NADRA is legally bound to share data with the ECP and render the related support in the light of the Section 25 of Elections Act 2017, and, the ECP, therefore, is not required to pay NADRA for the services.

The amount payable to NADRA on part of ECP is still not known but it is believed to be in millions.

Section 25 of the Elections Act 2017 reads, "National Database and Registration Authority to transmit data.- (1) In such manner as may be prescribed, the National Database and Registration Authority shall transmit relevant data of every fresh National Identity Card issued by it to the Commission for registration of the card-holder as a voter in the electoral roll of the electoral area in which his permanent or temporary address is located, in accordance with the option indicated by him in the application for issuance of the National Identity Card. (2) The Authority shall also transmit to the Commission relevant data of every cancelled or modified National Identity Card, information regarding deceased voters and such other details as may be required by the Commission for the purposes of this Act. (3) The Commission shall forward the data referred to in sub-sections (1) and (2) to the Registration Officer concerned who shall take steps for enrolment or, as the case may be, correction in the relevant electoral roll in accordance with such procedure as may be prescribed. Explanation.-Fresh National Identity Card includes any card that has not been earlier made part of the electoral roll database due to any reason whatsoever."

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020