Voters’ privacy at risk as candidates allowed access to ECP database

  • Election Act 2017 gives candidates option to obtain information about voters, including name, picture and address

ISLAMABAD: The government has put the security of millions of voters at risk as Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has been authorised to provide the information of voters, in hard as well as in soft forms including the photograph of the voter, to the candidates contesting the election if they desire.

According to information available with Pakistan Today, the parliament had passed the Elections Act 2017 in October last year in which it had given the approval to provide voters’ information to the candidates or an election agent.

“On the application of a candidate or his election agent, the district election commissioner or any officer authorised in this behalf by the commission shall provide to a candidate or an election agent a hard and searchable soft copy on universal serial bus (USB) in a portable document format (PDF) or any other tamper-proof format of the final electoral roll with photographs of the voters, and shall ensure that the copy is the same as provided to the returning officer and presiding officers,” document stated.

Talking to Pakistan Today, former ECP additional secretary Afzal Khan termed the move as deceit with the country as nobody can give the information of voters to anyone. It is private information and authorised officers of ECP can only give the hard copy of voters of a concerned constituency to candidates, and there is no reason to provide data in a soft form to anyone, he added.

He claimed that America had tried hard to get voters’ information before the last general election, but the former ECP secretary Ishtiaq Ahmed Khan had blocked the move. Instead of this, the ECP asked the Americans to provide assistance on voter education but they never did.

He also requested the authorities not to provide soft data to anyone as someone can misuse it.

Talking to Pakistan Today, former ECP secretary Kanwar Dilshad stated that it was not a good decision to give someone’s personal data to anyone. The ECP had shown reservations when this matter was discussing in electoral reform committee but now it has become a law.

He said that the interim government should look into this important matter before elections as the data will consist of names, picture and address of voters that can be misused by anti-state elements.

It is pertinent to mention here that Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) MNA Naeema Kishwar Khan had opposed to the idea of giving the data in a soft form to candidates.

Naeema Kishwar Khan told Pakistan Today that she was the member of electoral reform committee and she had opposed this move, but the committee had approved the provision with a majority.

She said that when the committee approved the bill, NADRA and ECP had subsequently written a letter to the committee for amendment after which she presented a bill barring ECP from giving a soft copy of the information to someone in the parliamentary committee. She further stated that National Assembly committee had approved the amendment and this matter would be taken up in NA session on Tuesday.