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Saturday, October 8, 2011

Voter Registration in Pakistan and the ECP Website (1)

Do justice to Urdu language please!

We will have elections in Pakistan in 2012 ( Inshallah) meaning they are just around the corner.
So being a citizen of Pakistan, I thought to look for some facts and figures that I deem necessary to know.
We live in a highy wired and well connected world today therefore  I decided to look up at the various websites in Pakistan - to see what they offer regarding elections here.

My first click was googling "Election Commission of Pakistan" and  then I looked for the websites of the major political parties in Pakistan. A lot needs to be done at all levels, regarding websites, thats is. Though Pakistan lags far behind in 'e- government' however, they have tried their best to put up a website of each ministry to show that they are part of the much wired world of today and I appreciate that.

I will go step by step and probably may need a few post to cover this topic.

I will just jump to the website of our very own Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

This is one of the few websites which is very comprehensive and regularly updated however, it needs further improvement which I will explain step by step. Election Commission  is an independent and autonomous constitutional body charged with the function of conducting transparent, free, fair and impartial elections to the National and Provincial Assemblies. It consists of the Chairman (Chief Election Commissioner of Pakistan) and four members each drawn from the sitting judges of the High Courts of their respective provinces according to the website.

Parliament consists of the President and the two Houses: National Assembly [NA] (342 seats) and the Senate (100 seats). Members of the National Assembly and Provincial Assemblies are elected by direct voting in a constituency on first-past-the-post system through a secret ballot. A candidate who obtains the highest number of votes in a constituency, is declared elected as a Member of National or a Provincial Assembly.

The distribution of seats for NA is:
Federal Area:2
Sind:  61
NWFP: 35
Baluchistan: 14
Non Muslims:10
Women: 60

The most important information on ECP website is the extention period for Registration of Voters: we still have some time left - deadline is October 30th, 2011. I have no idea how to do it online so I sent an email to ECP. 

By the way, there is a problem within the format/application for queries to ECP, which needs to be fixed. As soon as you start writing the subject matter - it automatically sends the mail without a person clicking on 'send mail' option, hence on my fourth attempt - I figured out how: 'not to press enter' on that page at any given point and relying only on space bar - was helpful (but this is not how it works worldwide). My sincere request to ECP is to fix: 'contact us by email option' - as soon as possible.

I am also concerned on the conditions regarding qualification of the contestants for NA, PA or Senate. (This does not have anything to with the website though) I rarely came across people in contemporary Pakistan who fulfil this qualification which ECP deems necessary . The qualifiaction/condition for contestants may lead to a conflict between what it ought to be and what we actually have in our elected representatives which infact lead to CONTRADICTIONS from the start of the process and results in further complications.

These conditions are not very tough however, they are NOT realistic in Pakistani context at all.

"Qualification for membership of the Parliament and Provincial Assemblies in their websites is:

A person who is a citizen of Pakistan, is enrolled as a voter in any electoral roll and in case of National/Provincial Assemblies is not less than 25 years of age and in case of Senate not less than 30 years of age, is of good character and is not commonly known as one who violates Islamic injunctions, has adequate knowledge of Islamic teachings and practices, obligatory duties prescribed by Islam as well as abstains from major sin, is sagacious, righteous and non-profligate, honest and ameen, has not been convicted for a crime involving moral turpitude or for giving false evidence, and has not, after establishment of Pakistan, worked against the integrity of the country or opposed the ideology of Pakistan and is graduate, can contest the elections and become a member of the Parliament or a Provincial Assembly. "

These conditions will leave nobody to contest or may be a few good men with 90% vacant seats. :-)

Anyhow, in ECP website there is a side menu with "check email" button. I clicked it and there  appeared two options of: log in and sign in with 'no' sign up option - I wonder who is it for (staff or public or both) and how it works? Even if this option is for the staff of ECP how they signed up? Is it just a mistake - plain and simple?

Another intersting thing in their menu is the 'Disclaimer' which states that:

" Welcome to the official website of Election Commission of Pakistan.
While all efforts have been made to make all contents on the ECP Website http://www.ecp.gov.pk/ as "Error free and updated" as possible, all users are requested in their own interest to refer to the officially published latest/updated copies of the Constitution of Pakistan, Acts, Rules, Laws, Orders, Notifications, Handbooks, Reports, Publications and related documents by the Election Commission of Pakistan, for authentic version. 

The Election Commission of Pakistan shall not be anyway responsible for any loss or shortcoming, defect, or inaccuracy in the ECP Website contents, information and data. Any discrepancies therein may please be brought to the notice of the Election Commission of Pakistan. All rights reserved by the Election Commission of Pakistan."

My sincere request is: all these above mentioned documents MUST be made available online by the concerned ministries for the benefit and easy access to public at large. Moreover, take responsibility of the contents of this website and try to update it more often. I would like to know why a huge number of IT related staff is hired in these goverenment offices?

Another feature of the ECP website is 'CEC/EC Judgements' in their side menu, there are only 4 such judgements and orders. I think that it is absolutely necessary for the ECP to have all the judements and orders available online for the public which they handled till date. We haven't have a long history of elections  so luckily there is not an enormous body of work there.

What's lacking in the website is the message from the Election Commisioner of Pakistan - who is the official head. After hours of search I found out in 'Notifications' - a side menu feature - that Chief Justice Iftikar Chaudry nominated Mr. Justice Mian Shakirullah Jan, a Judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan as Acting Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Pakistan from 26th July to 04th August, 2011.  Question arises: who is the current CEC?? I will eventually find out but there is no word on ECP's website!

Moreover, in 'Press Release', I found this piece:

Oct 06, 2011   Mr. Ishtiak Ahmad Khan, Secretary, Election Commission of Pakistan said that in order to facilitate the political parties and general public during the door-to-door verification of Draft Electoral Rolls-2011 prepared in collaboration with NADRA, the Election Commission of Pakistan has established Complaint Cells (consisting one officer of the ECP and one from NADRA) at Islamabad Secretariat, all Provincial Head Quarters and all i-e 128 District offices.

I have written to the concerned office and am waiting for their reply...

The most intersting is the data related to the increase in the number of Registered Voters   from 2007 to 2011. As of now, the Registered Voters (RV) under NADRA are about 88 million - which means that slightly less than half of the population is eligible for voting and out of that half  - 70 perecnt are the rural residents and more than half of all the RVs are under the age of 23. These are very intersting numbers where literacy is shamefully low, where people do not have basic amenities of life such as drinking water, sanitation, gas, and electricity in urban Pakistan. In rural Pakistan: people are still within the shackles of modern day slavery. Income inequalities are huge between and among the people of Pakistan.

Anyhow, back to the website, last but not the least, I wonder why we can NOT come up with the URDU translation of 'Election Commission of Pakistan' yet I think Urdu is a very rich language and can handle it.

I would really suggest people to visit these websites more frequently and notify problems so that we have an easier and more transparent way of accessing government institutions and various organizations that are part of our life - no matter what!
My next post is going to be on the websites of the political parties of Pakistan and let us see what they offer to the people online?

1 comment:

  1. Hi Sarah,

    I left a post on one of your articles under the following link. I am no Longer working for the said company therefore would appreciate if you could remove/delete that post for me.


    Many Thanks