ISLAMABAD, Dec 7: The National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) opposed on Friday the suggestion that it should be placed under cabinet division or the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
The idea was floated by Leader of Opposition in the Senate Ishaq Dar at a meeting of the Senate special committee on election issues.
Mr Dar said that Nadra should be brought out of the control of interior ministry to ensure its neutrality.
He first suggested that it should be placed under the EC but added that if this was not possible the bureau should be placed under the control of cabinet division.
Nadra chairman Tariq Malik opposed the idea and said: “We are an authority for a reason which is that we are fully independent in our operations.”
He said the Nadra was being run by a board, the chairman being one of the members. He said that Nadra was governed by the Nadra Ordinance which was later turned into an act of parliament.
Members of the committee burst into laughter when Mr Malik disclosed that Nadra was in negotiations with Sudan, Nigeria and Kenya for preparation of their electoral rolls and asked if this meant that it should be placed under their election commissions.
Explaining the independent nature of its operations in and outside the country, he said that Nadra was not getting its operational budget from the government, but it met its costs out of revenues generated through business.
Senator Sughra Imam of the PPP said that three million female voters had been registered without retaining their biometric record.
She said that rigging mostly took place at women’s polling stations and observed that some room had been left for large-scale and unchecked cases of impersonation in the absence of a verification mechanism for the female voters holding computerised national identity cards without photographs and biometric features.
The Nadra chairman conceded that there might be some cases of missing biometric data, but rejected the figure of three million as ‘imaginary’. “It must be in thousands and not millions,” he said.
Mr Tariq said that although Nadra used to issue CNICs without recording biometric features before 2005, it used many unconventional methods to gather the data over the years.
Citing an example, he said the women who came for birth registration or replacing the name of their father and getting registered with their husbands, the recipients of funds under the Benazir Income Support Programme or for flood relief should not think their biometric record was not available with Nadra.
He claimed that there was no room for issuing of fake CNICs. He said that one vote for one CNIC had been ensured for the first time in the country.
The committee sought to know the exact details of the cases of CNIC holders whose biometric data was not available.
The data will be shared with the committee in its next meeting.
The members of the committee were taken to a ‘data warehouse’, where they were briefed about the procedures to maintain record of CNIC holders, their family tree and even those who attested their forms.
Mr Dar expressed his satisfaction over the voter lists prepared by the EC and Nadra.
He was also impressed by the decision to enrol those who somehow could not be physically approached during door-to-door verification on their permanent addresses, when the data revealed that most of those having two different addresses had opted for their registration at the permanent addresses.