ISLAMABAD: Disclosing that around 80 districts have over 10 per cent gender gap among voters, National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) chairman Tariq Malik has said the authority will work with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to address the issue on a war footing.
The gender gap was as high as 52 per cent in Bannu district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said Mr Malik at the launch of the fourth phase of a campaign for women’s national identity card and voter registration held at the ECP secretariat here on Wednesday.
In all, 10.7 million women had been registered with Nadra since 2017 when the first phase of the campaign was launched, the chairman said, adding that 1.5m of them were registered through the female NIC and voter registration campaign.
“Today we embark upon this campaign with extra zeal and motivation to not only register women, but to empower them for their more constructive role in our national policy making,” he said.
Sharing details of the measures put in place to reduce the gender registration gap, the Nadra chairman said the first time registration with Nadra would be free of cost for citizens, while Nadra would observe Friday as women’s day across the country.
For this very purpose, 258 Nadra registration centres were operational. There were 10 mega centres working 24/7 while 53 centres were operating with double shifts (each spanning over eight hours) to register women.
According to Mr Malik, Nadra has a balanced ratio of female employees with over 93pc of centres having female staff. He said women would be preferred for employment in Nadra.
He explained that Nadra registration centres served applicants on a first come first serve basis, except senior citizens and persons with disability. “However, in order to increase Women Registration, Nadra and ECP are planning to establish 1x dedicated desk for fresh registration of women,” he said.
Nadra established 18 female-only Nadra centres across Pakistan, predominantly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, he added.
Besides, he said, the data of married men whose spouse or daughters, aged over 18 years, had not been registered with Nadra so far was also provided to the ECP.
Nadra also texted family heads on a daily basis alerting them about their children’s eligibility to get themselves registered for identity cards. In this regard, 122,000 SMS had been generated and the response was good, he said, adding that 4.6m SMS had also been sent to citizens asking them to get their identity cards renewed.
According to Mr Malik, Nadra also ensured to reach out people living in remote areas especially to reduce gender gap through its more than 200 mobile registration vehicles. He said vehicles were being allocated specifically for the constituencies where the gender gap was more than 10pc as and when requested by the District Election Commission.
Also, the Nadra chairman explained, 50 more mobile registration vehicles were being inducted in the current financial year to enhance Nadra’s operational and outreach capability.
Mr Malik said while working at international institutions, he learnt that one billion people worldwide did not have basic identity documents. “Nearly one-in-two women in low-income countries do not have their country’s national ID or similar foundational documents, limiting their access to critical services and participation in formal political and economic life,” he explained.
He said it was his goal to achieve universal coverage in Pakistan underpinning his strategy of “Leave no one behind”.
Observing that registration of voters was the first step in strengthening democracy, the chairman said Nadra was ready to support the ECP under Article 220 and use digital technology to develop a transparent electoral roll without any duplication, inclusion and exclusion errors. “We will use our infrastructure to outreach women, vulnerable communities and minorities. We have embarked on an elaborate registration campaign in reaching out the complete strata to achieve universal coverage in Pakistan,” he added.
He said Nadra was continuously striving to remain ahead in registering a population that was growing at the annual rate of more than 2pc.
“At present Nadra is operating more than 688 registration centres besides 263 mobile units and 10 overseas centres. PAK ID online services are also available in more than 190 countries, thus helping Pakistani diaspora in registration. Since the year 2019, over 132 x NRCs have been added to account for 131 million adult registrations to date.
“As of today, Nadra’s outreach is in all 154 districts, I plan to increase my organisation’s presence to all 543 tehsils of the country. On assuming charge as Nadra chairperson, I ordered opening of 66 new tehsil centres on August 14. In coming years, Nadra will have registration offices in almost all tehsils,” he said.
Mr Malik said Nadra was processing around 80,000 to 100,000 registrations on a daily basis. “Covid-19 pandemic may have affected the public turnout figures, yet it has further bolstered our resolve with resilience to fight back and increase and improve our registration capability. In all fairness, we have shortfalls, when it comes to filling up the gender gap that is approx 10pc. I pledge to reduce it as soon as possible on a war footing,” he said.
Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, ECP Secretary Dr Akhtar Nazir and Director Gender (gender Affairs) of the ECP Nighat Sadiq also spoke on the occasion.
Published in Dawn, July 8th, 2021