ISLAMABAD: National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) Chairman Usman Mobin is set to apprise the Supreme Court on Monday of “non-technical challenges” and the minimum time required to develop an integrated internet voting system to enable overseas Pakistanis to cast their votes in the upcoming general elections.

During the last hearing of the petitions seeking the right of vote for overseas Pakistanis, the Nadra chairman had tried to make a presentation before a SC bench, headed by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar, on the internet voting system, but at the outset he was intercepted by the chief justice when he sought a five-month time for developing the system.

The chief justice asked the Nadra chief to develop the system as early as possible so that it could be tested before the next general elections scheduled to be held in July or August this year.

The court had directed the Nadra chairman and officials of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to sit together and devise a time frame for the development of the system and to apprise the court of it at the next hearing.

Nadra spokesman Faik Ali, when contacted, said that after the court’s directive a Nadra team headed by the chairman held meetings with the ECP officials to discuss modalities, time frame and non-technical challenges related to the mechanism. He said the Nadra chairman would apprise the Supreme Court of the outcome of these meetings on Monday.

When asked to explain the non-technical challenges, Mr Ali said that some “risks” were involved in implementing the system as it would be a huge exercise since there were more than seven million overseas Pakistanis living in different countries.

He said there was a need to take all stakeholders on board on the “risk factors”, including impersonation and hacking, to avoid any imminent controversy.

The spokesman said that a three-tier internet voting system would be prepared for the purpose at a cost of Rs150 million.

He said that in the first phase, the overseas Pakistanis would be asked to get themselves registered with Nadra through a web portal by entering their computerised national identity card or national identity card for overseas Pakistanis (Nicop). After their registration, he said, the verification would be carried out through the data and records available with Nadra, the ECP and passport offices and through some secret questions related to the family tree of every individual. He said that the next phase would be to remove the names of the registered overseas Pakistanis from the voters’ list which would be used for voting purpose in the country on the polling day.

The spokesman said the registered people would then be sent a password which they would be able to use while casting their votes. On the day of election, he said, Pakistani expats would login to the portal and after entering the secret code, they would receive the ballot paper of their respective constituency for casting of their votes. Then, he said, in the third phase, Nadra would compile and consolidate the results and send it to the returning officers concerned.

Published in Dawn, January 29th, 2018

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