By: S. SAJJAD Q. ASHRAF
THE Election Commission of Pakistan has finalised a draft bill suggesting re-polling at polling stations where less than 10 per cent women votes would be polled. The bill is being sent to the Ministry of Law and Justice for its referral to the parliament for legislation.
According to the ECP, the proposed piece of legislation will help block groups/parties from entering into agreement restraining women of a particular area or a polling station from exercising their right to vote. Women of Pakistan are lucky to have got the right to vote since the inception of the country.
However, conditions for polling of 10 per cent women votes at every polling station will make the whole process of election a cumbersome exercise as there would be over 8,000 polling stations across the country. And there may be likelihood of re-election in one or more polling stations in every constituency.
There were instances in the past when parties or groups entered into an agreement at the local level not to allow their women to vote but, besides social conventions mentioned above, the main cause behind it had been national identity cards (NICs) of women which did not provide for their photographs.
The absence of a photograph at NIC would make them unidentifiable. So in order to avoid bogus voting there had been instances to exclude womenfolk in the voting process at the local level. This hurdle has since been removed with the introduction of computerised national identity cards by Nadra.
However, the major concern for the ECP should be the votes polled vis-à-vis the total registered votes. If one looks at the official data of the votes polled in the last six general elections held since 1988, one would learn that the percentage of total votes polled hardly go above 45.5 per cent.
In the elections held in 1988, the registered voters were 46.194 million, only 19.903 million votes were balloted which were 43.1 per cent of the total registered voters.
In the last election held in 2008, total 34.637(M) voters polled their votes. It was 42.8 per cent of the total registered voters who happened to be 81 million. It would be interesting to note that as per data submitted to the apex court by Nadra, out of these 81 million registered voters, some 26 million voters were either without NIC, or with duplicate NIC/CNIC or invalid CNICs.
So, if malpractices such as balloting of bogus votes are taken into account, the actual percentage of votes polled dropped further. All governments formed in consequence of these polls represented minority as majority of the electoral could not cast their votes.
The major concern, therefore, should be to encourage the majority to express its opinion through ballot in the coming election. It would be fitting if a law regarding voting of at least 51 per cent votes in every constituency is made. It will ultimately increase participation of womenfolk in the election process.