Curious case of 10m women without CNICs

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) said on Monday that roughly 10 million women in the country do not possess a Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC), rendering them ineligible to be registered as voters, and called on the authorities to register the disenfranchised women in the electoral rolls.

The PPP while expressing serious concerns over the significant number of ‘missing women’ said that utmost efforts should still be made to include these women in the electoral rolls so that they could take part in the upcoming general elections slated to be held in January next year.

“Inclusion of 10 million women can turn around the whole election results,” Malaika Raza, the general secretary of the human rights cell of PPP said while talking to Daily City News. “The inclusion of millions of women can have a huge impact on the poll results; it could be a game changer and can go in PPP’s favour in Punjab as well.

”Malaika voiced serious concerns regarding the significant number of missing women on the electoral rolls. According to the ECP, Malaika while relying on different stories and reports said, “Over 10 million women have no CNIC and are thus disenfranchised”.

In an official statement, she said that the ECP claims that the situation has improved from the last elections when 11 million women were disenfranchised due to not having CNIC. “This situation is a matter of serious concern and urgent action is needed to address this pressing issue,” she added.

Subsequently, Malaika urged “the Election Commission of Pakistan, the caretaker government, and all political parties to join forces and provide support to ensure the inclusion of these women in the electoral rolls.

”She emphasised the need for a concrete policy that would facilitate their registration and enable their participation in the democratic process, saying many of these women lack basic identification documents such as identity cards and even bank accounts.

“This lack of official identification hinders their overall growth and development, as it restricts their access to various essential services and opportunities,” Malaika said. By prioritising the right to identity cards and financial inclusion, she added, “we can guarantee that every woman’s voice is heard and counted in the upcoming elections.

”Malaika stressed the importance of collective efforts in creating a more inclusive society and said: “We cannot ignore the fact that millions of women are being denied their right to vote due to bureaucratic barriers and a lack of assistance.

”She said that it is the responsibility of the government, ECP and political parties to work together to rectify this issue and ensure that no woman is left behind. She said the PPP human rights cell supports measures to address this critical issue and calls upon relevant authorities to take immediate action.“It is essential to empower these women by assisting them in obtaining necessary identification documents and facilitating their registration on the electoral rolls,” Malaika concluded.

Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, the president of the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development And Transparency (PILDAT), recently wrote on the electoral gender gap in a newspaper, saying there are potentially around 3.5 million eligible women above the age of 18 who are not registered as voters.

The gender gap estimate of over 10 million by ECP and some other entities is questionable, the PILDAT chief says, because it assumes equal male and female registered voters. Considering the 2017 census data showing women at 48.79% of the population, he said, we can estimate that there should be 61.96 million registered women voters nationally, leaving a gap of around 3.5 million or 2.75% of total registered voters.

“Irrespective of the methodology of estimating the gender gap, the fact remains that we have a serious issue, ie, a large number of eligible women are missing from our voters’ list,” Mehbood noted.

An estimated 3.5m women voters translate into over 13,000 voters on average in each of the 266 National Assembly constituencies, he said, adding this number of voters is larger than the margin of victory in over 100 NA constituencies, which means that the missing women if registered as voters, can alter the results of more than a third of the national legislature.

“The prevailing electoral gender gap is, therefore, not only tantamount to denying the right of franchise to such a large number of women, but it also casts a dark shadow over the fairness of elections in the country,” he stated.

When approached, the ECP officials declined to comment but allowed the story to proceed without their input.

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