The election in 2013 will be remembered for couple of reasons in the history of Pakistan, one of which is the high turnout. The role played by Election Commission of Pakistan in this regard has to be applauded. It was ECP, under the leadership of Honorable Justice (R) Fakhruddin G. Ibrahim, which worked day and night to increase registered voters all across Pakistan. Figures show remarkable increase in registered voters as compared to the 2008 general elections i.e. an increase of 5,393,420 registered votes.
NADRA played a key role in supporting ECP for increasing registered voters. Among the various interventions, NADRA, in accordance with orders from Supreme Court of Pakistan, issued CNIC to the transgender community of Pakistan. Additional efforts were made by NADRA with support of UNWOMEN and ECP to increase women votes in 2013 elections. These efforts were fruitful and a total of 37,597,415 female votes were registered for 2013 election as compared to 48,592,387 male votes. It is estimated that even the women turnout was higher this time, keeping in view the overall 55% turnout. Although not many female candidates made it to assemblies as compared to 2008 elections, it is believed that women participation did increase manifold. While a lot has to be done to increase women participation, there is still more that is required, especially in terms of commutation to polling stations on election days, as due to lack of transport and other cultural and religious obligations women do not make it polling station to cast their vote.
NADRA also enrolled transgender community and issued them with CNICs. This move came after a Supreme Court ruling instructing both NADRA and ECP to acknowledge status of transgender community and their right to vote as citizens of Pakistan. NADRA figures show approx., 600 transgender male and female members were issued CNIC. This may not be true representation of transgender community in Pakistan, but a move towards right direction.
Use of technological advancement also played an important role in increasing number of votes for 2013 election. NADRA introduced SMS services keeping in view access of mobile phone services to a large population of Pakistan. This service enabled registered voters to locate their polling stations hence saving their efforts to physically go and verify. Moreover, on Election Day presiding officers were provided voter lists having pictures of registered voters. This proved to be very useful in verification of voters. Also, NADRA used fingerprint-screening system to verify votes in different districts after elections to verify valid votes.
We should also not forget the positive role played by all political parties despite threats from militants and terrorists in different high security risk areas of Pakistan. Several Pakistani men and women were killed and injured in bomb blasts and IED attacks on political party offices and rallies. It was heartening to see that all political parties despite clear threats continued their participation in electoral process and did not back off. Security forces despite limited resources ensured elections were carried out in a safe manner. Special security measures were put in place for polling stations on Election Day. Election staff along with security personnel ensured polling stations remained a safe place for voters. These special arrangements encouraged voters to come out and vote despite tense security situation in different parts of Pakistan. Voters were seen standing in long queues and waiting for their turn, hence showing their confidence in arrangements made by ECP and its partners for successful conduct of elections.
We yet have to see another important electoral process happening this year i.e. local government elections. As per constitution, ECP is responsible for conducting local government elections in collaboration with Provincial Governments. As we wait for final schedule to be announced by provincial governments, it is evident that this will be another milestone in Pakistan’s electoral history. We are hopeful that the process will be more streamlined and all lesson learnt during 11 May elections will be incorporated.
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