ISLAMABAD: Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Mohammad on Tuesday said the commission may not use the ‘controversial’ magnetic ink in the general elections 2018.
The official informed the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that the ECP was instead procuring biometric voting machines to ensure transparency in the elections.
The issue came under discussion while the committee was examining an audit para related to the “purchase of indelible ink and magnetised stamp pads.”
The ECP in 2011 decided to use the magnetised ink for the biometric verification and discouraging fake votes in the 2013 elections.
Secretary Election Commission informs Public Accounts Committee that ECP is not intending to use the ink again
However, after the elections, the magnetised ink became a headache for both the ECP and the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) as during the process of verifications the thumb impressions could not be verified perhaps due to the quality of the ink.
The secretary ECP explained that former chairman National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) Tariq Malick had confirmed before the Judicial Commission constituted to probe alleged rigging in the 2013 elections that the use of magnetised ink cannot ensure 100pc accuracy as the problem related to the reading of a thumb impression would persist even after the ink was used.
He said the ECP had spent Rs85 million on the purchase of the magnetised ink but was not intending to use it again in the next elections. The ink has also not been used in several by-elections held so far.
The explanation came from the official after PAC member Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho asked if the ECP would use the magnetised ink in the next general elections.
“It is my understanding that the ECP will not use this ink as we are procuring biometric machines for the purpose of voter verification,” he replied.
Sheikh Rohale Asghar of the PML-N said the issue of thumb impression created much hype which was used for political purposes. He then asked the secretary ECP to admit the fault and declare publicly that those who become victims to the controversy were innocent.
In response, the secretary said the former Nadra chairman had already cleared the position regarding reading of the thumb impression before the Judicial Commission.
He, however, said before applying the ink in the general elections the ECP could have used it for the trial purpose and addressed the shortcoming before the 2013 elections.
PAC member Junaid Anwar Chaudhry said if the ECP was intending to use biometric machines in the next elections it should take a final decision well before time.
The secretary replied that the parliamentary committee on electoral reforms was also looking into the matter and may set a deadline for the ECP regarding preparations for the elections.
He said since the polling staff deployed for the previous general elections were also criticised for improper training, the ECP had established 21 centres for the training of the staff besides setting an age limit for them at less than 55 years.
Regarding the registration of new voters, the secretary said during the last one year 4.8 million voters were registered, most of them in the metropolitan cities.
Published in Dawn, September 28th, 2016