ISLAMABAD - Dismissing any foul play on part of his department regarding the provision of allegedly substandard magnetic ink used in this year’s general polls, the chief of Pakistan’s premier scientific body has rejected the related allegations levelled by the poll authority.
“We are ready to have our magnetic ink tested at any scientific forum, lab or research facility to prove that we prepare one of the best and lab-tested magnetic inks,” said Pakistan Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (PCSIR) chairman Shaukat Parvez while talking to this correspondent here on Thursday.
His response came a day after the ECP had accused the PCSIR of providing substandard ink used in the May 11 General Elections. “Is it even possible that some votes were verifiable and some were not if the magnetic ink was substandard? Does this make any sense? Had that ink been substandard, not a single vote would have been verified,” Parvez referred to the detection of unverified votes in NA-256 and NA-258, the two National Assembly’s electoral constituencies in Karachi wherein thousands of unauthentic and bogus votes were polled on the day of general polls.
Stirring ripples of panic in Pakistan’s electoral and political circles, the ‘discovery’ of these votes appears to have put the authenticity of May 11 General Elections under dark clouds.
While a credible electoral observer terms this development a ‘tip of iceberg,’ the institutions concerned seem to be engaged in blame game. The ECP that is primarily responsible to hold free and fair polls, has refused to share the responsibility while passing the buck on PCSIR.
A National Database and Registration Authority report has revealed that out of 84,748 votes polled in certain polling stations of NA-256 on May 11, only 6,815 were authenticated while 77,933 unverified out of which 11,343 ballot papers contained invalid Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC) numbers which were never issued by the registration authority. The report said there were 5,839 duplicate votes. The CNIC numbers on 1,950 ballots papers did not match with CNIC mentioned on the counterfoils. The NADRA had conducted the thumb impression verification in the two constituencies on the direction of election tribunal that hears a petition on massive poll-rigging during the general polls.
In a joint news briefing on Wednesday, the NADRA chairman had said the ECP had provided the magnetised ink which was not readable for votes’ verification. ECP Secretary Ishtiaq Ahmad Khan had held the PCSIR responsible for providing ‘sub-standard’ ink.
On the other hand, PCSIR chairman Shaukat Pervaiz said the magnetic ink was lab-tested and prepared according to the desired criteria. “Our experts had tested the ink time multiple times. We also conducted a number of sample tests in the presence of the ECP officials. They had examined the ink’s standard and expressed satisfaction, then.
We are just surprised to know that PCSIR is being dragged into the controversy. As I said, had the magnetic ink been substandard, not a single vote would have been verified. It’s beyond comprehension how some votes could be readable and some not if the magnetic ink lacked the desired standard.”
The PCSIR, the chairman said, would brief the ECP about the magnetic ink soon.
Giving credence to the reports of large-scale poll-rigging, the surfacing of thousands of unverified votes sounds to be replica of the 2008 general elections whereby over 37 million unverified votes, mostly bogus, were polled. Of the 86 million registered voters for the general elections 2013, over 48 million had exercised their right to franchise.
The political parties, especially the PTI, have categorically slammed the ECP for its failure to act against what it describes as unprecedented poll rigging on May 11. The party’s 2500-page White Paper pinpoints hundreds of instances of the poll rigging along with documentary evidence.
Former ECP secretary Kanwar Dilshad, who has publicly termed this year’s general elections as ‘greatest fraud in Pakistan’s history,’ says that the detection of unverified votes in the two constituencies is just a tip of the iceberg. “You never know, how many votes are unverified or bogus. I fear they are in millions.” Dilshad asks the poll authority to draw lessons from this episode. “Don’t let it go and don’t even try to sweep this failure under the carpet. It’s time to finally draw some lessons.”
Fully supporting Imran Khan and Dr Tahirul Qadri’s on electoral reforms, the former ECP boss said, thumb verification must be conducted in all the electoral constituencies of the country to detect bogus votes. “Khan and Qadri were right, unless electoral machinery is overhauled and partisan ECP members are sent packing, such blunders would just keep happening.”