Nadra admits lacking facility to verify thumb impression


Amid demands from certain political parties to verify the thumb impressions of voters on ballot papers to prove rigging allegations, higher authorities in the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) on Thursday conceded that the authority at the moment had no capacity to verify the thumb impressions of voters in large number.
Chairman NADRA Tariq Malik, the other day, had said that the authority was ready to verify thumb impressions of voters in the constituencies where the political parties were levelling allegations of rigging.
However, some officials of NADRA claim that the authority had only very limited capacity to verify such cases and the stressed that they could not verify the thumb impression in thousands and millions.
They said National Database and Registration Authority had the ability to upgrade its system for this purpose but lacked capacity at the moment.
"We will have to upgrade the existing software to verify the thumb impressions of voters on ballot papers and this will take two to three weeks," said a senior official of NADRA while talking to this scribe on condition of anonymity.
Background interviews with some senior officials of NADRA indicate that at present NADRA's soft ware is based on civil registration system and it could not verify the thumb impressions in large number.
NADRA authorities said that for the purpose of verification of thumb impressions, they had to develop separate software based on criminal forensic registration system and it required time and money as well.
"All are speculations that National Database and Registration Authorityhas the capacity to verify thumb impression in millions, we should be first told about the demand and then we need permission from the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), as well as time to acquire software," the official said adding that the new software would cost ranging from seven hundred thousand US dollars to 1.2 million US dollars.
He also said that under the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) Rules, NADRA either would have to float tenders to acquire the software or a special permission from the Caretaker Prime Minister Justice (retd) Mir Hazar Khan Khoso was needed. "Apparently, they have no time for procurement," he said.
The sources in NADRA said that ECP had reacted very late to the demand of the verification of thumb impressions through NADRA system. They said Chairman NADRA Tariq Malik had written a letter to the ECP on June 19, 2012 to have its consent to upgrade the system to verify the thumb impressions of voters but the commission did not approve the proposal.
The NADRA officials informed that the authority used to receive 10 to 12 criminal forensic investigation verification cases from police through National Crisis Management Cell (NCMC) of the Ministry of Interior during a week or two. They said NADRA had only the capacity to verify such number of cases.
National Database and Registration Authority officials also see another problem in the verification of thumb impressions and that is the lifting of thumbprints from the ballot papers.
They consider it a very difficult job as according to them the quality of the ink used for the thumb impressions on ballot papers was unknown and this would provide difficulties.
Secondly, the thumb impressions would have to be first scanned to get verified from the system and this was a lengthy and difficult procedure, they said adding that voters did not care and casually mark thumb impressions on ballot papers.
NADRA officials suggest that ECP should continue the process of scrutiny by re-counting of votes through returning officers and the decision of the controversial election result decisions should be decided through election tribunals and the authority should not be involved in the controversy.

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