Next election will be inclusive for all segments of society

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ISLAMABAD: Over 12 million women are missing from the electoral list for want of Computerised National Identity Cards (CNICs), a senior official from the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) said on Wednesday.

“We have been working with the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) to issue CNICs to women on a priority basis and ensure their participation in the next general elections,” ECP Additional Director General Nighat Siddique told participants of ‘Making an Inclusive Pakistan Elections Regime’, a event organised by the Special Talent Exchange Programme, in collaboration with the Canadian High Commission.

Ms Siddique claimed that the next general elections would be inclusive for all segments of the society, including persons with disabilities (PWDs).

ECP official says steps being taken to ensure people with disabilities can cast votes

“A guideline has been sent to all the provinces recommending ramps at all polling stations and polling booths at ground floor so that all the segments of society can cast their votes. Special persons will be allowed to have company of a relative. Moreover, it has been decided to allow special persons to cast their votes through postal ballot,” she said.

She also claimed a media campaign would be launched to give awareness to people and as many as 700,000 election staff would also be sensitised in dealing with PWDs so that they could facilitate them to cast their votes.

PML-N MNA Tahira Aurangzeb said she had moved a bill in the National Assembly suggesting ramps in public sector and private buildings of the federal capital, but it could not sail through parliament.

Without naming the individual, she said: “The bill could not be passed because a minister, who has now been replaced, was sitting on it. His replacement has assured me that his ministry will consider the bill seriously.”

MQM legislator Kishwar Zehra said that during the PPP government she had tabled a bill aimed at ensuring the representation of PWDs in the parliament but it was not considered.

“I have again tabled the bill during the tenure of this parliament, but it is not being considered because of red-tape. I believe that PWDs can fight their case in a better way,” she said.

International Foundation for Electoral Services Country Director Shabir Ahmed said that the Islamabad Declaration, prepared in 2014, had stressed that PWDs should be supported to cast votes but the declaration could not be implemented.

“There is no need to take cosmetic steps as they will never help. Polling stations should be made accessible to the PWDs otherwise establishing polling stations on ground floor will not help PWDs. Policy makers should come forward and take steps to ensure PWDs cast their votes,” he said.

Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives’ Amir Ijaz said that efforts were being made for the last many years to unite PWDs and give them awareness about their rights. He suggested that there should be active participation of PWDs in political process.

Canadian High Commissioner Perry Caderwood said that Canada believed that full participation of women in democratic process was critical for a legitimate and inclusive government.

“Women with disabilities need more attention and they should be included in the decision-making process. We allowed some women to cast votes in 1917 and with the passage of time all the women were allowed to cast their votes,” he said.

“Even today we have 26pc representation of women in the lower house and the PWDs too have say in the parliament,” he said.

Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2017