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ISLAMABAD, May 26: The National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) has decided to upgrade its contract with a French firm to enhance its capacity to scan thumbprints to ascertain alleged irregularities in some constituencies during the recent elections.

Earlier, Nadra was considering signing a fresh contract with another company to upgrade its software, but now it has decided to engage the French firm which has already provided a software (for a limited scanning facility) for the job.

Prime Minister Mir Hazar Khan Khoso has ordered that the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority rules be relaxed, allowing Nadra to directly negotiate with foreign firms to get its software upgraded.

“Although we had floated international tenders for the purchase of software before the caretaker prime minister allowed us to directly negotiate with international companies, we will negotiate with the French firm which is already providing us the facility to improve our capacity,” Nadra Chairman Tariq Malik told Dawn on Sunday.

“If the French company upgrades the facility, Nadra will be able to avoid the hectic procedure of engaging a new firm.

“However, the rate to be quoted by the French firm should match that of at least two other international companies,” he said.

Nadra will have to verify millions of voters through their thumb impressions, but currently it has the capacity to verify 100 thumbprints a day only.

It is hoped that after acquiring the new software and hardware facility, Nadra will be able to scan 500,000 thumbprints daily.

Mr Malik said Nadra had already placed an order for purchase of 300 thumb scanners for its offices across the country and that these will be used for verification of voters’ thumbprints.

He said he had two options to initiate the process of scanning thumb impressions — the job should either be carried out by Nadra itself or scanners should be placed in election tribunals, which will send information to Nadra through internet.

More than 300 complaints have been filed with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) against alleged misuse of thumbprints during elections. According to a rough estimate, the complaints were filed for 10 per cent of the constituencies.

Meanwhile, it has been learnt that the ECP had been informed before the May 11 elections that Nadra did not have the capacity to verify large number of thumbprints.

Sources said the Nadra chairman wrote three letters to Chief Election Commissioner Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim before the elections urging him to get its thumb verification system upgraded, but it received no response.