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‘10 million missing from voter list’

December 16, 2017

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Federal Minister for Human Rights Mumtaz Ahmed Tarar speaks at the national dialogue on Friday. — APP
Federal Minister for Human Rights Mumtaz Ahmed Tarar speaks at the national dialogue on Friday. — APP

ISLAMABAD: Senator Farhatullah Babar said on Friday that if the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) continues issuing computerised identity cards (CNIC) at its current pace, it would take 15 to 20 years to issue CNICs to all Pakistani women.

Senator Babar, while speaking at a dialogue on ‘Closing the Gender Gap in the Electoral Rolls’ organised by the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) and the Tabeer – Consolidating Democracy in Pakistan project, said that over 10 million women are missing from the voter list, and the gender gap in the list needs to be overcome.

He said Nadra currently has the capacity to issue 7,000 CNICs a day, but needs to be issuing 10 times as many cards a day to register missing voters before the next general election.

We do not have much time, so Nadra needs to be given special powers to issue CNICs to all women who do not have cards, he said. “Resources should also be provided to Nadra to ensure the timely issuance of cards.”

Dialogue emphasises issuance of CNICs to women to overcome electoral roll gender gap

He added that multiple sources of identification should be used to register voters rather than just CNICs, and suggested that all those recorded in the last census should be registered as voters.

Human Rights Minister Mumtaz Ahmed Tarar said the process to obtain a CNIC needs to be simplified, and women should be incentivised to encourage them to obtain identity card to fill the gender gap before the elections.

He also suggested that the recommendations from the Friday’s dialogue be sent to the Ministry of Human Rights, and assured that “we will play our role in removing the hurdles on an urgent basis”.

NCSW Chairperson Khawar Mumtaz suggested that political parties and the government sit together to include every women eligible to vote in the voter list.

“If the state fails to take immediate steps to register woman voters, almost 10m women will be deprived of participating in the electoral process,” she said.

She said the 2018 elections would not be fully inclusive if the right to vote is not provided to women through proactive state measures to issue CNICs. Ms Mumtaz also announced a nationwide collective action campaign by the NCSW in this regard.

Election Commission of Pakistan Additional Director General (Gender) Nyghat Siddiqui said that the commission and Nadra have begun a campaign to issue CNICs to women in the 79 districts with the least number of women voters.

According to elections expert Tahir Mehdi, the electoral roll gender gap has been growing since possession of a CNIC was made a requirement for inclusion in the electoral rolls.

He said women have fewer options to obtain CNICs due to cultural and social barriers, and said the state should take measures to provide identity cards to all citizens, as they are a right of every individual.

Published in Dawn, December 16th, 2017