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ECP looking to address widening gender gap among registered voters

Updated December 07, 2016

ISLAMABAD: The gap between registered male and female voters has widened by 12.17 per cent since May 2013, Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Secretary Babar Yaqub Fateh Muhammad said on Tuesday while sharing details of an exercise to revise electoral rolls.

According to the data collected during the exercise, the total number of voters is now 97.01 million — 54.59 million men and 42.42 million women.

In response to a question, the ECP secretary said the number of people holding valid computerised national identity cards (CNICs) was 102.87 million, against 97.01 million registered voters. That meant that 2.56 million eligible voters were missing from electoral rolls. There were 86.25m registered voters in the 2013 general elections — 56.4 per cent men and 43.6 per cent women. According to voter registration data released by the ECP in Sept 2015, ahead of local government polls, there were 93.07m voters in the electoral rolls — 52.36m men and 40.7m women — a difference of 11.65m.

Under the recent exercise, the ratio is pretty much the same, with 56.26 per cent male voters compared to 43.74 per cent female voters.

The Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen), a coalition of NGOs working to improve the electoral process in the country, has called for urgent efforts by political parties and the ECP to increase women voters’ registration before the 2018 general elections. The large gap between registered male and female voters is disturbing, Mudassir Rizvi of Fafen said, adding that registration was the first step towards citizens’ political and electoral empowerment.

He observed that much of the deficit was because of under-registration of women and said the matter required the ECP’s prompt attention. He suggested that the ECP could work with the National Database and Registration Authority as the women who were missing from the voters’ lists might also not be registered as CNIC holders. If the deficit alone was bridged, voter registration would jump to nearly 104m from the existing 93.07m.

The issue of women’s registration requires attention keeping in view that the declining ratio of male and female voters does not bode well for the quality of electoral rolls to be used for the 2018 general elections.

In the 2002, the voters’ ratio was 86 women per 100 men. In 2008, the ratio decreased to 79 women per 100 men. In 2013, it further decreased to 77 women per 100 men. The slight improvement in ratio for this year stands at 78 women per 100 men. On the other hand, the ratio was as high as 87 women per 100 men in 1970 and 1988. According to the demographic profile of the Pakistani population as per the 1998 census, the ratio must ideally be 96 women per 100 men. Alongside women, citizens in the 18-25 age group need to be targeted as their under-registration is proportionately higher compared to other age groups.

Awareness events

Terming the gender gap a big challenge, ECP Secretary Babar Yaqub Fateh Muhammad said that December 7 (today) would be observed as the National Voters Day throughout the country to highlight the importance of exercising the right to vote.

The National Voters Day will be marked with a main event at the President House which President Mamnoon Hussain will chair. Chief Election Commissioner retired Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza will speak on the occasion and members of parliament and other dignitaries will attend it. The event will not be open for private media, he said.

He added that similar events would be held in all provinces, presided over by their respective governors. Seminars, awareness walks and other events would also be organised at the district level.

Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2016