ECP ready to consider KP’s plea for biometric system in LG polls

* Commission to call provincial authorities next week to discuss KP’s demand * Official says lack of cooperation from NADRA major hurdle

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) will review next week the letter sent by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government for holding the local government elections in the province using biometric system.
The ECP is likely to call the provincial authorities, including the chief secretary, any time next week to discuss the KP government’s demand for using biometric system in the local government elections.
The KP government on Friday intimated the commission about its decision in favour of the biometric system after ECP asked the provincial government to inform it in black and white if it wanted elections using biometric system or without it. The ECP had said it was ready to hold the polls without biometric system before June 30, however, at least 20 weeks were required to prepare for the elections under biometric system.
KP Election Commissioner Sono Khan Baloch confirmed to Daily Times that the commission had received provincial government’s letter in favour of biometric system. “The letter reached us yesterday (Friday) evening. The provincial government has, although, already made its mind but every aspect of the issue needs to be discussed with them and related factors have to be considered before taking a final decision,” he told Daily Times by phone from Peshawar on Saturday. He did not comment any further.
An official at the ECP told Daily Times that the commission was facing a major challenge in holding elections under the biometric system involving lack of support from NADRA. “Originally, using biometric system in the LG polls was NADRA’s concept and the authority’s previous chief (Tariq Malik) was very much committed to it. But now they have backed out,” the official said. He preferred not to disclose his identity because he was not authorised to speak to media.
The official said NADRA is responsible for all related arrangements, including the entry of voters’ data as well as the procurement of biometric machines. “NADRA is not willing to take responsibility of the procurement of machines because it involves a huge amount of money. It, instead, wants KP government to purchase the machines,” the official said. “We have to inquire from the provincial government whether it is willing to take this responsibility. An ordinary biometric machine costs between Rs 12,000 to Rs 15,000. And thousands of machines are required across the province for conduct of polls.” KP Minister for Local Government and Rural Development Inayatullah Khan told Daily Times the provincial government is ready to take all responsibilities pertaining to biometric system, including the provision of funds for procurement of machines. “We have assured the ECP, time and again, of our complete cooperation in this regard, irrespective of the debate whom the responsibility lies with. All we need is a positive response and cooperation from the commission.”
Khan said the provincial government’s stance on biometric system is ‘loud and clear’. “They asked for our opinion and we vividly made it clear that we want the conduct of LG polls under biometric system. Nothing short of that will be acceptable to us. The ball is in ECP’s court now.” To a question regarding an estimated delay of at least five months in LG polls in case biometric system is used, the minister said, “Better late than never. Free and fair elections are more important. The polls have already been much delayed and waiting for some more time is not a big deal.”

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