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Faulty voters’ lists deprive many of their right

May 12, 2013

ISLAMABAD, May 11: A group of 16 voters were asked to wait outside the Pangran polling station in PP-2 and NA-51 in the rural area of Gujar Khan Tehsil as their names were missing from the voter list.

“We are here for the past three hours waiting for confirmation from the polling staff as to whether we will be casting our votes here or somewhere else,” Mohammad Zaman, 65, who was apparently heading the group, told Dawn.

Traditionally, polling agents representing various parties facilitate such voter on the day of voting, but Afrasiab Abbasi said only a couple of days back he had got the voting list and it was difficult to let people know in advance about their serial numbers and polling stations.

Due to faulty electoral rolls, many voters were sent back without casting their votes. Mr Zaman, holding his computerised identity card, insisted that since he had this card, nobody could deny him the right to vote.

Mr Abbasi even showed Dawn a list of voters which carried many anomalies; missing serial numbers, faulty counting of voters and wrong addresses of polling stations.

On inquiry, one of the polling staff members said it was common problem he was dealing with since morning, because without name on the list which the ECP had provided, voters could not be allowed to cast their votes.

“Computerised electoral rolls may have been a huge facilitation for urban voters, who through SMS can find out the exact location of their polling stations, but people living in deep rural areas of the Rawalpindi division were not happy with the change of their polling stations in the new electoral rolls,” commented the staff member.

In some cases, voters of one village have been distributed between two different polling stations, falling in opposite directions as far as 10 kilometres.

Qasim Khan, a PTI polling agent at Karam Chand, said because of ECP’s restriction on candidates banning transport for their voters, people were facing problem in reaching the polling stations. In the past, candidates used to provide transport for their voters, but now they were doing so discreetly.

Voters at many of the NA-56 (Rawalpindi city) and NA-49 (Islamabad) polling stations had to suffer because of defective voter lists.

Polling agents sitting at a school post in NA-55 - where Sheikh Rashid is trying to make a comeback on a National Assembly seat - reported that several of the voter lists were incomplete.

“Older women have come by, shocked that they were not on the voter lists. After walking around for two hours, they circled back and eventually gave up. A lot of women do not have their votes registered,” a polling agent said.

Other voters complained that the polling booths were inefficient, forcing them to stand in lines for three to four hours before they got a chance to cast their vote. “Some of us are ill, others have left their children at home,” said an older female voter.

In Bari Imam (NA-49 Islamabad), women voters were seen searching for their names in the voter list. Polling agents of both the PPP and PML-N too were found short of information on the voters’ list.

Other polling stations in NA-49 also witnessed the same problem.

“I have polled my vote in Korang Town but rest of my family members’ votes have been shifted to Behkar Village to a federal government model school for girls,” maintained Faisal Iftikhar, 33.

In Taxila city and Wah Cantt, some of the voters complained against shifting of their polling stations to nearby villages. According to reports received from Attock and surrounding areas, instead of voters, polling staff members were critical of the election commission for delayed release of ballot papers and other necessary material. They said they had reached their respective polling stations late which had been a huge hassle.

A similar situation was witnessed in the garrison city, as mismanagement marred the election process in many polling stations, especially in NA-54 and NA-55.

Many polling stations in NA-54 were set up in small congested rooms lacking proper furniture and adequate staff to handle the large number of voters.

At some places, there were no arrangements to maintain secrecy while casting votes; voters were seen stamping ballot papers in front of other people.

Owing to the incomplete arrangements and late arrival of election material, voting started at 9:00am at polling stations in Government Faizul Islam Boys High School, Iqbal Road, Government Gordon College, and Ziaul Islam School Raja Bazaar.

Some women, who had come to cast their votes early in the morning, managed to return home late in the evening.

“I came early morning and the staff marked my thumb and kept me waiting for stamps for the next two hours,” said Sumaira Taj. When asked about the mismanagement, the presiding officer said there was a shortage of staff and election material to handle the 2,000 plus women.

At a women polling station in Growing Year Primary School at Allahabad, more than 100 women went back without casting the vote due to the congested area, as the school owner had arranged the polling booths in a nearby house instead of the school.

When asked why the women were complaining, the presiding officer said the rooms were congested and did not accommodate many people.At some polling stations, the presiding officers complained they had not been provided with ink pads, envelops and other stationary, and were asked to arrange them locally.

“The election material had been delivered to us in midnight at 3:00am and we spent the whole night awake to wait for the election material,” they said. — Additional reporting by Aamir Yasin