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ISLAMABAD: Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Muhammad has indicated that electronic voting machines (EVMs) and biometric verification machines will not be used in the 2018 general elections.

Sharing details of the test run of BVMs in the recently held by-election in Lahore’s NA-120 constituency at a press briefing here on Friday, he disclosed that fingerprints of 12 per cent voters could not be read by the machines.

He said the number of voters at the time of the next general elections would reach around 100 million. “If the fingerprints of 12 per cent voters are not readable for various reasons that time, it means around 12 million voters would not be verified through the technology.”

The machines could not verify fingerprints of 12pc voters in NA-120 by-election, says ECP secretary

He said the percentage could be even more in the country’s rural areas.

Giving details of the test run in the NA-120 by-election, he said the ECP used 100 BVMs at as many polling booths in 39 polling stations in which a total of 57,265 voters were registered.

Amid low turnout in the by-election, a total of 22,181 voters used BVMs. The machines could verify 19,520 of them through fingerprints and other data. They could not read fingerprints of the rest 2,646 voters that constitute 12pc of those who tried the technology.

“These results are not encouraging at all. If this sample ratio is taken, of the 90.7 million voters registered in the country, BVMs would not be able to identify 11.6 million of them,” he remarked.

The ECP secretary said that NA-120 was an urban constituency with high literacy rate and people mostly from affluent families. If these machines were used in a constituency comprising rural areas, the ratio of those who could not be verified by them would be much higher, he added.

The newly appointed Additional Secretary of ECP, Dr Akhtar Nazeer, and Director General of Information Technology Khizar Aziz were also present on the occasion.

Answering a question about rumours taking rounds on social media that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) won from all polling stations where the biometric machines were used, Mr Aziz said it was not correct.

He said that out of the total 39 polling stations where the machines were used, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz got more votes from 28 polling stations while the PTI emerged victorious from 11 of them.

Meanwhile, the National Database and Registration Authority on Friday clarified that it was asked to provide biometric fingerprints of voters of the NA-120 constituency, after the ECP had decided to install biometric voting machines in the by-election. Subsequently, out of the total 321,786 voters of this constituency, Nadra could not provide data of 29, 607 voters due to multiple reasons.

According to a Nadra official, the authority introduced biometric finger capturing machines in 2005-06 and before that period finger prints were used to be taken on paper-based forms. “Of 29,607 people whose fingerprints data was not provided, 26,349 acquired CNICs before 2005-06. Moreover, out of 26,349, CNICs of 24,099 people, having paper-based fingerprints, were expired or that number could not renew their CNICs after the expiry of CNIC due to deaths, migration or other reasons best known to them.”

Whereas, 2,271 people are in possession of National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis who gave their fingerprints on paper, he added.

Published in Dawn, September 23rd, 2017