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Dawn special report: Electoral rolls leave out one in seven Pakistanis

Published Aug 03, 2012 07:13am


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Officials at the Election Commission of Pakistan office in Karachi display and check electoral lists. — Dawn photo
Officials at the Election Commission of Pakistan office in Karachi display and check electoral lists. — Dawn photo

An analysis of the new voter list issued by Election Commission of Pakistan late last month shows that up to 15 million Pakistanis of voting age may have been left out of the rolls. As compared to the rolls used for the last general election, the number of voters has declined substantially in most districts of Sindh and Balochistan.

KARACHI, Aug 2: As many as 15 million Pakistanis of voting age may have been left out of the final electoral rolls released by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on July 31.

Based on the 1998 census, Pakistan’s current population should be around 190 million people today. About 51 per cent of the population is, according to the census report, aged 18 and above. That implies an estimated 98 million Pakistanis are now eligible to vote.

But only about 84 million Pakistanis are included in the recently released final electoral rolls (FER-2012), leaving one in seven people without the right to vote. The Free and Fair Election Network estimates the gap to be even higher, at 20 million voters.

The last census in the country was conducted during 1998 in a period of relative peace by the Population Census Organisation of Pakistan.

That massive exercise, which was supported by federal and provincial governments, the army, and other law-enforcement agencies generated data that is generally considered transparent and used by all national and international organisations for planning and resource distribution.

The ECP has also confirmed that it will be delimitating constituencies for the upcoming elections based on the 1998 census.

But the disparity between the 1998 numbers and the FER-2012 doesn’t end at the national level. If we take a closer look at the four provinces and their ‘registered to vote’ versus ‘eligible to vote’ populations, one out of 10 adults has not been registered to vote in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab, one in five in Sindh, and one in four in Fata and Balochistan.

The FER-2012 appears to have been developed on the basis of the FER-2007, with the ECP and Nadra carrying out a major exercise to verify and augment the previous list. Interestingly, major districts in south Punjab including Multan, Bahawalpur, Bahawalnagar, Dera Ghazi Khan, Rahim Yar Khan and Vehari have seen substantial reductions in the number of registered voters compared to the 2007 list, while most major districts in central and north Punjab, including Lahore, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi, Sheikhupura, Hafizabad, Jhelum, Khushab, Mandi Bahauddin, Narowal, etc., have seen a substantial increase in the number of registered voters for the FER-2012.

Voter lists have been made available at district-level Election Commission of Pakistan offices

• Plans to distribute them at union-council level are under consideration

• Voters can also verify their registration information by sending their CNIC in an SMS to 8300

• Voters who are not yet registered, or whose entries are not correct, can get their information added or corrected through the ECP until the election schedule is announced.

As expected, women remain badly under-represented in all areas of the country. Based on population figures, around half of all adult females in Balochistan and Fata seem to have been left out of the FER-2012, one-third in Sindh and one-fourth in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab.

The reasons for fewer registered voters in Balochistan, Sindh and Fata might include poor law and order and difficult post-flood conditions in 2010 and 2011 in these regions. But other factors could be increasing alienation amongst these populations and a rising disillusionment with the national political process.

Going to Nadra to augment the voter’s list may have been the right thing to do. But the Election Commission of Pakistan also needs to find ways to reverse what could be growing alienation among the people of Balochistan, Sindh, Fata and most of rural Pakistan.

Number of voters falls in most Sindh and Balochistan districts: Millions of voters may be unregistered because of lack of CNICs

If the latest electoral rolls are used in their current form, there are parts of the country where fewer Pakistanis will be able to vote in the upcoming polls than in 2007.

The total number of voters nationally, according to the latest list released by the Election Commission on July 31, stands at 84.4 million, compared to 81.2 million in 2007. This is a suspiciously low growth rate given the rapidly expanding Pakistani population — an average of less than one per cent a year.

But at least it represents growth. In Sindh and Balochistan, though, the numbers have declined dramatically, by 7 per cent and 22 per cent, respectively. [Read more]

Fewer female voters in North Waziristan 

Because of the influence and pressure exerted by extremists and some religious elements, the number of registered women voters has significantly dropped in North Waziristan Agency, whereas Kurram Agency has the highest percentage of female voters among all the tribal agencies.

According to the new computerised voter lists released recently by the election commission, there are only 10,863 women among the 156,591 registered voters in North Waziristan. [Read more]


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Comments (10) Closed

Ixion Aug 03, 2012 11:14am
All the article is saying is that apparently about 14% of people of voting age (18 years and above) may not included in the latest voting lists. How did you then conclude that this discrepancy is affecting the youth voters, is lost on me? At least this much is clear that you are no fan of Imran Khan.
farooq Aug 03, 2012 06:30pm
No, it is mostly the youth voters that have not been given the form for starters or the youth themselves have not participated. There are bogus votes in the list and i know a few people who are enrolled in different areas and even cities. And i am a bigger fan of Imran Khan and SK Hospital ever since the allegations have surfaced. PPP and PML-N need to take a break from politics otherwise they will encourage the army to take over
Kdspirited Aug 03, 2012 04:19pm
is there a chance to register more people before the election starts to increase the population of elligible voters. If so how? There should be a massive campagin by the election comission to encourage people to register to vote and they should make the process more accessible
sameer Aug 03, 2012 04:01pm
totally agreed
UKPak Aug 03, 2012 03:01pm
The reduction in voter numbers could be due to the removal of bogus voters in the previous lists..... we can but live in hope.
Guest Aug 03, 2012 01:23pm
It is irrelevant what the total population of pakistan or young voters is. The relevant data to analyse is the one registered with NADRA. Since only computerised ID card holders are allowed to vote, the latest figures from the voter list should be compared against NADRA records instead.
farooq Aug 03, 2012 09:33am
I guess Imran Khan and PTI can stop day dreaming about sweeping the elections as the youth vote is what will get them more seats. I think the election will be another drama.
AsimCO Aug 03, 2012 09:30pm
Even a single vote matters. Change is hard and it has to be earned. Imran is trying to change OUR country - a behemoth task indeed. The question is what are 'we' doing to change our country - besides making political remarks over dinner tables? So here is the question, how many reading this article have registered to vote? How many in your family have taken the step towards registering? If even one person that we closely know has not bothered to register, then we have failed our selves, our children, and any potential hope for change. Its taken over 50 years to get some one like Imran Khan who truly believes in his nation. We will not get another chance......
shakeel Aug 04, 2012 04:21pm
Compare the voter list with NADRA record. How much NICs issued to living people and how much voters are lited in ECP voters lists.
EmMoosa Aug 06, 2012 05:28pm
NADRA should come out their airconditioned offices and go door to door to register the people and issue them temporary id cards. The computerized one should also be handed over immediately later by the same process that time is not lost in mailing. This is a big issue. Elections should not be conducted until it is solved otherwise someone will again get the 2/3rd majority by rigging the poll.