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Acting Chief Election Commissioner, Justice Shakir Ullah Jan talks to media persons in this file photo. — Photo by ONLINE

ISLAMABAD: Acting Chief Election Commissioner Justice Mian Shakirullah Jan has said that although the new computerised electoral rolls are not 100 per cent error-free, the discrepancies could be removed before the next general elections.

In a formal interaction with newsmen here on Sunday, a day before the swearing-in of Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim as Chief Election Commissioner relieving him of the responsibility of acting CEC, Justice Jan said the commission had to rely on outsiders for enumeration and this resulted in some wrong entries in the electoral rolls.

He said about 20 people would face criminal proceedings for filing fake forms for registration of votes in some areas of Balochistan. He said an enumerator had affixed his own thumb impression on thousands of forms, while other enumerators had used their thumb impression for filling multiple forms.

He said the fake forms were nullified with the assistance of Nadra and a strict action against the offenders was ordered and complaints under Sections468 and 471 of the Pakistan Penal Code were filed in courts. Likewise, he said, he had taken notice of the critical situation of electoral rolls in Karachi and constituted a cell headed by the Punjab Chief Election Commissioner who investigated the matter and all issues were resolved to the satisfaction of stakeholders in Karachi division.

Justice Jan said the printing of electoral rolls for all provinces, except Punjab, had been completed while work on some districts of Punjab would take a couple of days.

He said the new electoral rolls contained 84.3 million entries, including 47.7 million male and 36.6 million female voters.

There are 48.3 million eligible voters in Punjab, including 21.01 million women; 18.43 million in Sindh, including 8.21 million women; 12.06 million in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including 5.1 million women; 3.2 million in Balochistan, including 1.39 million women, 1.67 million in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, including 0.55 million women and 0.6 million in Islamabad.

He said 1.58 million youths, who attained the age of 18 between January 1 and June 15 this year, had been included in the electoral rolls. Their names were not in the preliminary electoral rolls.

He said about 15,000 youths approached Nadra daily to get a computerised national identity card (CNIC). He, however, said their names would not appear on the electoral rolls automatically, even if they had acquired CNICs.

Answering a question, the acting CEC said that accreditation cards had not been issued to the observers of Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen) to monitor the recent Multan by-poll because of a criticism over the electoral rolls by a coalition of more than two dozen NGOs.

He said Fafen lost its credibility after making a sweeping statement about the electoral rolls, but clarified that it had not been disqualified permanently and could be issued accreditation cards to monitor future by-polls if it behaved maturely.

He ruled out the possibility of a cold war between the Supreme Court and the election commission and said the new electoral rolls had ended the controversy.

Justice Jan justified issuance of a notification prior to the Multan by-poll, saying that it was the first by-election after the Supreme Court’s verdict in the Workers Party Pakistan case.

He said a steering committee had been set up to finalise recommendations on the Supreme Court’s guidelines. He said the committee would formulate recommendations on compulsory voting and introduction of an appropriate system of election, including “run-off poll’ and electronic voting machine (EVMs).

He, however, said that the introduction of EVMs in the next general election would not be feasible because huge funds would be required to purchase and store them. He said the electricity crisis would also make it difficult to rely on the machines.

He said it was for the first time that computerised electoral rolls were being published with a further plan of having photographs and thumb impressions on the rolls. The electoral rolls with photographs would be used only by presiding officers, while the remaining required number of sets would be used by polling agents, political parties and public.

He said there would be an exclusive column in the electoral rolls where the presiding officer would obtain thumb impression of a voter in digitised ink for casting his vote. The process would serve as a deterrent against any illegal activity and it could be used as forensic evidence in an election dispute. “This will ensure one person-one vote and exclude the possibility of casting multiple votes by an individual,” he remarked.

Responding to a question, he said the lawmakers suspended by the Supreme Court for holding dual nationality were not suffering because of any fault of the election commission. He said they had declared in their nomination papers that they had not violated Article 63 of the Constitution which barred holders of dual nationality from contesting elections. He said more clarity had now been brought in the declaration and candidates were specifically required to disclose if they were holding dual nationality.

Justice Jan said the election commission was ready to conduct general and local government elections any time, but there was no indication that the government had any plan to hold them.