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Unable to vote: Loopholes in the system

May 13, 2013

THERE has been justifiable anger amongst progressive quarters over the fact that in some areas women were prevented from voting. Enfranchisement has to be universal, with no caveats. This challenge takes on even greater importance when it is considered that these women were not the only ones unable to vote on Saturday. An as yet uncounted number of people could not vote because they had applied for the renewal of their CNICs, and the expired cards had been kept as per procedure by Nadra. The authorities did notice, and a few days before the polls the ECP announced that ballots could be cast on expired CNICs, while Nadra said that the cards of people applying between then and May 11 would not be confiscated. But it was already too late for some. Then, there were the extra policemen sent to Islamabad for election duty. Over 8,000 of them did not vote because they were registered in their areas of residence, and their department failed to ensure postal balloting. Many of them did not know about this right while others could not meet the postal ballot deadline because of their work schedule — wherever the fault lay, they did not vote. Similar was the case with voters registered in cities other than where they now reside. While much of the onus lies on the citizens themselves for not bothering to change the details of where they were registered, in many cases they tried but failed. In any case, a strong public awareness campaign and greater effort on part of the authorities would have helped.

Universal enfranchisement is an on-going exercise and in general the ECP has not done badly at all in this election. But loopholes remain, and it is hoped that the ECP, Nadra and other departments involved in the electioneering process continue to work on them. As the turnout in these elections shows, people do believe in the electoral process. The state must do its bit by continuing to improve the system.