QUETTA: Balo­­­chistan Election Commissioner Muhammad Naeem Majeed Jaffar has said that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is taking several measures to increase the ratio of female voters and ensure their maximum participation in the electoral process.

Speaking at a meeting held at the Governor House on Saturday to commemorate the national voters’ day, he said the reason behind celebration of this day was to engage the maximum number of voters in the electoral process with special focus on women, disabled persons and members of minority communities. He said the Constitution empowered the ECP to conduct transparent elections in the country in which all candidates must have an equal opportunity.

Emphasising the need for inclusion of female voters in the electoral process, he said the ECP had taken several steps to encourage women and create space for them in the electoral process.

According to him, the Elections Act, 2017 declares null and void an election in which women are barred from exercising their right to franchise or an election in which participation of women is less than 10 per cent of total registered female votes. No individual, contestant or political party would be allowed to stop women from using their right to franchise, he added.

This is pertinent to mention here that there is a huge gap between male and female voters in Balochistan. According to some statistics, the gap is of around 600,000 votes. One of the causes of this gap is that a large number of women in Balochistan do not have computerised national identity cards and, therefore, are not registered in computerised electoral rolls.

Mr Jaffar said that to ensure the maximum participation of women in the election process, the ECP had initiated a campaign in 11 districts of Balochistan under which women would be registered in computerised electoral rolls. It was encouraging that Baloch­istan was the first province to initiate such a project, he added.

He said disable persons would be provided the facility of postal ballot.

Retired Justice Shakeel Ahmed Baloch, a member of the ECP, shed light on some ongoing and future projects of the commission.

He said that among the most important things required for conducting free, fair and transparent elections were the availability of error-free electoral rolls and registration of all eligible voters in the computerised electoral rolls.

For these purposes, the ECP conducted an exercise for the revision of electoral rolls last year and it would launch more projects to make electoral rolls error-free before the next general elections, he added

Mr Baloch said the reason behind celebrating the national voters’ day was to create awareness about the importance and sanctity of vote.

He also talked about other ECP measures, including procurement of election material and printing of watermark ballot papers.

Published in Dawn, December 11th, 2017