WASHINGTON: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is a constitutional body, and the National Database and Registration Authority cannot tell the commission what to do, says Nadra chief Tariq Malik.
“We cannot tell them what to do but they can admonish us. They are a constitutional body. We are a technical institute,” the Nadra chairman said at a news briefing in Washington on Thursday.
The media earlier published excerpts from a letter the Election Commission wrote to Nadra indicating that Nadra intends to engage ECP in a new Rs2.4 billion contract for developing an i-voting system, although the existing agreement is still valid.
“Nadra may inform [ECP] why it is going to abandon the previous system … on which a considerable sum of … Rs66,500,000 has been already dispensed with,” the letter asks.
The letter also asks Nadra “why should ECP go for a new Rs2.4 billion contract” and “if the existing system has some loopholes or deficiencies, then who is responsible” and whether these could be fixed.
Says e-voting will bring in ‘one-ID, one-vote system’
When asked to comment on this controversy, the Nadra chief said it was a communication between the IT heads of the two institutions and not an institutional clash. “This is a misunderstanding, and it will be removed when I return,” he added.
Mr Malik said that creating a new electronic voting system may take up to three years, but Nadra has prepared a plan to revamp the entire system in a year.
The Election Commission, he said, had agreed in principle to do this but Nadra was waiting for a written approval.
Mr Malik said there’s no disagreement among political parties on electronic voting, which would bring in the “one-ID, one-vote system”.
The parties also “agree on internet voting for overseas Pakistanis as the Constitution gives voting rights to every citizen”, he added.
Overseas Pakistanis could use postal voting but that’s unsafe while Nadra was offering a safe and transparent system, enabling overseas voters to check if their votes had been counted, he said.
Later, while addressing a community dinner at the Pakistan Embassy, Mr Malik said Nadra did not make electronic machines, it devised the system to run those machines.
The Nadra chief also introduced the new biometric certification system that will allow Pakistanis to apply for ID cards and sign up for bank services via their smartphones. He also inaugurated the facility at the embassy and said that the new system would “revamp Pakistan’s identification system into a robust citizen-centric system rolling out digital public goods”.
All citizens, including those living overseas, can download the new digital ‘Pak Identity’ app on their smartphones, which will enable them to digitally verify fingerprints, photographs and documents required for the ID card. The app captures biometrics and scans documents digitally by using the phone camera.
Published in Dawn, September 18th, 2021