ISLAMABAD: The National Data­base and Registration Authority (Nadra) has started transferring computerised electoral rolls to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) even though some serious challenges remain, sources close to the development said.

“Will Nadra be ready to transfer photographed electoral rolls that the Act under which Nadra was created prohibits, is a question that remains unanswered,” an official told Dawn.

He said the absence of a data centre to manage electoral rolls at the ECP headquarters was also a challenge. The standard operating procedure (SOP) for inclusion of new voters in electoral rolls was yet to be framed.

According to sources, Abdul Ghaffar Soomro, the first retired bureaucrat to be appointed as a member of the ECP, had raised the issue of the ECP’s lack of capacity to maintain a databank of around 100 million voters and had tried hard to persuade the commission that the matter should be handled by Nadra. He was of the view that it would save people the hassle of first approaching Nadra to obtain a computerised national identity card and then the ECP to get registered as voters.

Sources said that Mr Soomro had highlighted that since Nadra would print electoral rolls for the ECP prior to the general elections in 2018, as the facility was not available with the ECP, it would be appropriate if Nadra continued to maintain electoral rolls.

However, the majority’s view had prevailed and they had decided that the ECP would get electoral rolls transferred from Nadra in line with an agreement reached between the two.

An official of the ECP told Dawn that Nadra and the ECP were in a transition and testing mode at present as far as the transfer of electoral rolls was concerned. The testing phase would be completed by Dec 31.

He added that the ECP headquarters was electronically connected with 145 district and regional election commissions, but around 70 per cent of the district offices were being upgraded and shifted to new buildings and the shifting would require new connections to the system, which could take months.

ECP Additional Secretary Fida Muhammad, when contacted, claimed that the transfer of computerised electoral rolls to the ECP would be complete by January 2017. “The infrastructure is ready and the required human resource trained.”

Mr Muhammad said there were connectivity issues with a few districts, including Dera Bugti, for various reasons, while other districts were internally connected. A databank had been set up and the ECP’s server was functional. He said, however, that Nadra would also be kept on standby in this regard. The authority would continue to run the system alongside the ECP for some time.

The electoral reforms package being prepared by the parliamentary panel on electoral reforms includes a proposal under which those who obtain a CNIC upon turning 18 years old will automatically be registered as voters. They would get a choice of being registered at their permanent or present addresses.

Published in Dawn November 20th, 2016

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