THE Election Commission of Pakistan’s launch of the revamped ‘e-ticket’ service on Monday is welcome news in a pre-election landscape marked mostly by negativity and violence. Now, by sending his or her CNIC number via mobile phone text message to 8300, a voter can obtain information such as the location of their polling station, block code and serial number — essential data for those who wish to cast their vote on Saturday. In earlier elections, political parties used to give the information now obtainable through the 8300 service written on pieces of paper to voters. But this time campaigning has been lacklustre in many areas, especially in those affected by militant violence. Hence in the absence of vigorous election campaigns and public outreach by political parties, the service is a welcome method of arming voters with vital information.
The service has proved quite popular in urban areas, though it may take time to catch on in the rural parts of Pakistan. As per figures quoted in this paper on Wednesday, around two million people had used the service within 20 hours of its launch. It is a good idea not only because there are around 120 million mobile phones in the country, but also because young voters, many of whom will be casting their vote for the first time, are technology savvy and will be attracted to the service. Having the information available beforehand should save time and hassle at the polling station. Since ECP officials have said that mobile phone coverage will likely be suspended in some areas on May 11, it is a good idea to get the information ahead of polling day. Also, the ECP should highlight the service through a variety of media to inform the maximum number of people.