ISLAMABAD: In a controversial move, around 15 million voters enrolled in areas other than their addresses on computerised national identity cards (CNICs) will be shifted by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to their permanent addresses, if they fail to decide where they want to be registered as voters by the deadline of Dec 31.
“A decision in principle has been taken to register all voters enrolled on a ‘third address’ on the permanent addresses mentioned on their CNICs after the expiry of the deadline”, a senior ECP official told Dawn on Saturday.
He said under Section 27 of the Elections Act, a person shall be deemed to be resident of an electoral area if his temporary or permanent address on their CNIC issued by the National Database and Registration Authority lies in the said electoral area.
Move can trigger litigation, but ECP says it has no option
He said a person who was in the service of Pakistan could apply to the registration officer for enrolment in the electoral area in which he temporarily resided for being in the service of Pakistan and the facility was also available to his spouse and children.
Sub-section 4 of Section 27 of the Elections Act reads: “Notwithstanding, anything contained in this section or any other provision of this Chapter, the registration of a voter at an address other than the permanent or temporary address mentioned in his National Identity Card shall remain valid till he applies for transfer of his vote or for modification or renewal of his National Identity Card in which case his vote shall be registered according to the temporary or permanent address mentioned in the National Identity Card.” While a proviso with the sub-section reads “Provided that this sub-section (4) including this proviso shall stand omitted on 31st December, 2018”.
The ECP official said this meant the persons registered as voter at an address other than the ones mentioned on their CNICs had less than a month to decide where they wanted to be registered. He said otherwise, they would be enrolled as voters at their permanent addresses. He agreed that the move would open a floodgate of litigation, but insisted that the ECP had no option.
He said the ECP had already launched a campaign to create awareness among the voters and had also published a public notice. At an event at Aiwan-i-Sadr to mark National Voters’ Day on Dec 7, President Arif Alvi would give a message to the voters, the official added.
After Dec 31, the district election commissioners (DECs) would prepare lists of such voters in their respective areas and send notices to them following which they would be registered as voters at the permanent addresses as mentioned on their CNICs, he said, adding that a targeted messaging campaign would also be considered for the purpose. The process of registering such voters at permanent addresses would be completed by March 31, 2019, the official said.
He said speakers of the national and provincial assemblies had also been asked to inform their voters about the requirement as well.
Published in Dawn, December 2nd, 2018