ISLAMABAD: The veil of secrecy was finally lifted on Monday after a senior official of the Election Commission of Pakistan disclosed that over 9.42 million extra ballot papers had been printed for last year’s general elections.
The official said the exact number of ballot papers printed was 181,743,000 (181.74 million). The number of registered voters across the country was 86.18m and, therefore, at least 172.37m ballot papers were required to be printed for the national and provincial assemblies.
But he asserted that the printing of extra papers was not something unusual as it had also happened in the past. The reasons were purely technical, he said, adding that each ballot paper book contained 100 leaves and 15 books were required at a polling station with 1,418 registered voters.
The official said the exact number of ballot papers for each constituency was communicated to provincial election commissioners by the returning officers concerned keeping in view the number of voters and these were printed by the government printing presses.
In reply to a question, he agreed that the voters’ turnout had never exceeded over 60 per cent, but said the number of papers could not be reduced on assumptions. The number of ballot papers printed should be twice the number of voters.
ECP official asserts this is not unusual as it also happened in the past
The official said two ballot papers were required for each voter – one for the National Assembly and the other for a provincial assembly, adding that a margin had to be there for tendered and challenged votes, besides spoilt ballot papers.
He said that there might be some flaw in the printing of papers in some cases and there should be a cushion for such a situation. There should also be a room to provide additional papers at polling stations in case of loss, destruction, theft or other eventuality.
He said the printing of additional ballot papers was a routine practice, but added that he was surprised that it had become controversial for the first time.
He pointed out that the number of registered voters in 2008 was 80.79m and some 161.5m ballot papers were required to be printed to meet the requirement of two ballot papers for each voter, but 171m papers had been printed. It meant that 9.5m additional ballot papers had been printed that time, he added.
Likewise, the official said, the number of registered voters was 71.90m in 2002 while 143.8 million ballot papers were required to be printed. But 153.2m papers had been printed, meaning 9.4m additional ballots.
In 1997, the number of electors was 56.57m while 121.48m papers were printed – about 8.4m extra ballots.
The official said the decision to print ballot papers for the May 2013 general elections had been taken by the ECP at meetings held with the authorities of the Printing Corporation of Pakistan (PCP) in Islamabad and the Pakistan Security Printing Corporation (PSPC) in Karachi on Sept 6 and 7, 2012. He said the PCP had agreed to print 112.5m papers and the PSPC 67.5m – a total of over 181m.
The official said the printing of ballot papers was a highly sensitive, huge and complex process with many dimensions and, therefore, the ECP took a number of security measures to ensure that every ballot paper was printed and delivered to returning officers in a secured manner through an elaborate action plan.