ISLAMABAD: Federal Human Rights Minister Mumtaz Ahmed Tarar has said that the process to obtain a CNIC needs to be simplified and that incentives should be given to encourage women to get their computerized national identification cards (CNIC) made so that over ten million missing women can be brought on the electoral rolls to be able to exercise their right to vote.
He shared these views while speaking as chief guest and chair at a high-level roundtable meeting of policymakers titled ‘closing the gender gap in the electoral rolls’, on Friday.
The dialogue was held by the National Commission on The Status of Women (NCSW) organised in collaboration with ‘Tabeer – Consolidating Democracy in Pakistan’ (CDIP). A number of key stakeholders including parliamentarians, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), political party leaders and civil society experts participated in the event with an aim to generate recommendations on special measures needed to close the gender gap in the electoral rolls prior to the 2018 general elections.
Mumtaz Ahmed Tarar commended the participants for their spirited dialogue, calling for their recommendations to be submitted to the ministry so that they could be implemented on an urgent basis.
Senator Farhatullah Babar highlighted the need to act with urgency to close the gender gap prior to the next elections. He said, “If NADRA continues to issue cards at its current capacity, it will take 15 to 20 years to close the gender gap in the rolls. Special emergency legislation or administrative measures are required to empower NADRA with the necessary resources to increase its pace of registration because time is very short.”
NCSW Chairperson Khawar Mumtaz called for the ECP, NADRA, political parties and the government to work with urgency to bring an estimated 10 million missing women of voting age into the electoral rolls.
She underscored that the 2018 elections would not be fully inclusive if the right to vote was not provided to these women through proactive state measures to provide them with NICs. She said that NCSW will also launch a nationwide campaign of collective action to close the gender gap in electoral rolls.
ECP Gender and Social Inclusion Additional Director General Nyghat Siddiqui gave an overview of the recently launched joint initiative with NADRA to conduct female CNIC and voter registration in 79 districts where the gender gap is particularly high.
Elections expert with CDIP Tahir Mehdi briefed the attendees on the current situation, noting that the gender gap in the electoral rolls has been growing steadily since possession of CNIC was made a requirement to be included in the electoral rolls.
He explained that women were less likely to have a CNIC for a host of cultural and socioeconomic reasons. Consequently, the requirement of possessing a CNIC to be included in electoral rolls has had a disproportionate impact on women.
He said that just as it was a requirement for citizens to possess a valid CNIC ion order that they may cast vote, so also was the possession of CNICs a right of every citizen. It is the state’s responsibility to provide for this right, he said.