Missing names, duplicate voters dog polling in PakistanFebruary 18th, 2008 - 6:41 pm ICT by admin
By Devirupa Mitra
Islamabad/Rawalpindi, Feb 18 (IANS) Under a temporary marquee, 53-year-old Jameel Ahmed has been carefully going through the area electoral list since the morning - his ball pen scratching away on the photocopied papers. “See, this one has been dead for eight years,” said Ahmed, sitting in the temporary camp of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), where he was besieged by would-be voters looking for names on the electoral list and participated in Pakistan’s most crucial general election Monday.
His small tent was decorated with PML-N posters and pitched outside the gate of the F4 Senior Secondary School for Boys in Islamabad, a large two-storey, red brick building.
Sitting next to him, Shafi Mohammad, a polling agent for PML-N, claimed he knew of a woman who had been listed 24 times.
Both of them were rifling through electoral rolls, with almost all the pages having more than one ball pen mark against names, which meant these voters were either dead or had been listed more than once.
“When the chief election commissioner came here for a round in the afternoon, he was accosted by a man asking why his name was not in the list. He was told that he could cast his vote. But, so far, he has not been able to do that,” said Mohammed.
Just a few days, a civil rights group, Free and Fair Network, had noted that there were over 15 million voters, out of a total estimated 87.5 million Pakistanis of the voting age, missing from the final electoral rolls. It further said more than 7.5 million voters were listed twice, while another 1.26 million voters had their national identity card (NIC) listed twice.
Again and again, in almost all polling stations that this IANS correspondent visited, there were repeated complaints of voters who could not find their names on the electoral list, even as several names were repeated twice, thrice or even four times.
The camps set by the political parties outside the polling stations were thronged by voters looking for their names as several of them had not got the voting slips.
It was clear that at least they were voting with their feet for PML-N and to a lesser extent to PPP, but the camps for the King’s party, PML-Quaid, had relatively few takers.
Looking for his name in the rolls, outside a polling station in another school in the National Assembly constituency 55 in west Rawalpindi, 23-year-old Haroon Rashid, a strong PPP supporter, was frustrated.
“None of the 15 members of my family has been listed. All of us have NIC cards and we voted last time. How can our names not be here?” he asked.
Similar tales were heard at other polling stations.
“Out of eight members in the family, only my younger brother has got it,” said a despondent Azhar Mahmood, a PML-N worker, in Khayabana Sir Syed Colony, adding, “It is all their work,” pointing a finger at the camp of the ‘cycle-wallah’ PML-Q opposite the road.
“Please write this,” urged Rana Shabir Ahmed, a professor of Persian, displaying the voting slip for his mother. “My wife is not being allowed to vote. This is an outrage,” he said angrily, stating that she had voted in the last elections in 2002.
The electoral rolls had been the cause for a major tussle between the Election Commission and opposition political parties. In 2007, PPP had filed a petition in the Supreme Court claiming that more than 30 million voters had been removed from the rolls.
They were distraught that the Election Commission had made the possession of computerised NIC necessary to cast a vote, which PPP felt would hit its voter base in the rural areas.
After the Supreme Court had withdrawn the requirement for a computerised NIC, the second phase of the electoral rolls revision led to the addition of 52 million voters in a period of just one month - but it was still 20 million less than that in 2002.
It was in this phase that several bogus voters were reportedly added, which according to some reports could be as high as four to five million in number.
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