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AJK polls: CNIC punching decision withdrawn

MUZAFFARABAD, June 16: The AJK Election Commission has withdrawn its earlier decision to punch a small hole in the computerised national identity cards (CNIC) of voters due to some ‘unavoidable reasons’, raising fears of double polling by thousands of people who have got themselves enlisted at more than one place.According to an amended law, production of CNIC is a must for the voter to obtain his/her ballot paper and the EC had initially announced that it would use special machines to punch a (small) hole in the CNIC in order to foil double voting.However, the commission retracted its announcement the other day on the grounds that it was impracticable for two reasons: firstly, the punching machines were not available in Pakistan and secondly a big majority of electorate had serious reservations against getting their CNIC punched.

“We have not been able to get punching machines and apart from that there have been media reports that punching will cause data loss and render the CNIC unusable,” EC secretary Mohammad Younas Mughal told Dawn here on Thursday.

“In view of the number of polling stations and booths for the 41 Legislative Assembly constituencies (29 in AJK and 12 in Pakistan), a minimum of 10,000 (punching) machines would be required which cannot be arranged within the time available with us until polls,” he added.

According to Mr Mughal, the required punching machines were not manufactured in Pakistan but in China and “we have been told that their manufacturing and transportation will take at least two months.”

“Now we will resort to the old practice of applying indelible ink mark to the cuticle of the voter’s thumb,” he said.

But when his attention was drawn towards the fact that unscrupulous electorate could quickly remove the ink stain for double voting, a visibly perturbed EC secretary nodded his head in agreement and said: “Yes this does happen.”

Interestingly, when contacted by Dawn, an official in the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra)’s technical section said on condition of anonymity that a small hole (on top right or left corner) could neither deface the CNIC nor lead to any data loss.

When told about the Nadra official’s opinion, Mr Mughal said given the time constraints the EC had to go for application of indelible ink, adding orders had been placed for it.

“We have made maximum possible endeavours to remove mistakes in the electoral rolls and the corrected lists have been released with the signatures and seal of the concerned EC officers,” he said.

However, he said, a special cell was working round-the-clock in the EC to include new eligible votes on the one hand and exclude fictitious or dual votes on the other.

The supplementary list will be ready 48 hours before the polling day and packed in the polling bag of concerned polling station, he added.

To another question, he said, printing of ballot papers was in progress and will be completed within a week.

He said around 27,000 police and rangers were to be deployed in and around the polling stations. If need be, army can also be called out in sensitive stations, he added.


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