ISLAMABAD: The incumbent government is giving priority to women’s economic empowerment, elimination of all forms of violence against women and promote gender equality in all spheres of social, political, and cultural lives, said Minister for Human Rights Mumtaz Ahmed Tarar while addressing a national dialogue on ‘Closing Gender Gap in Pakistan’s Electoral Rolls’ organised by National Commission on Status of Women (NCSW).The NCSW in collaboration with ‘Tabeer – Consolidating Democracy in Pakistan’ convened key stakeholders including parliamentarians, Election Commission of Pakistan, political party leaders and civil society experts to generate a dialogue and collect recommendations on special measures needed to close the gender gap in the electoral rolls prior to the 2018 general elections. The minister told the moot the government was focusing on protecting rights of women through education, capacity building and ensuring equal opportunities for them besides giving them prominent position women within the decision and policy making process.The minister elaborated that the Ministry of Human Rights had formulated a draft National Policy Framework for Promotion and Protection of Human Rights. He said that according to Election Commission of Pakistan’s current estimate, 12 million women voters were unregistered. “We could make effective electoral registrations of women by simplifying the CNIC procedure, establishing NADRA sub-offices for easy access to women besides mobilizing NADRA mobile teams in remote areas in remote areas,” he said.Senator Farhatullah Babar said that currently NADRA had the capacity to issue 7000 CNIC cards per day whereas, to register the missing votes, 70,000 cards need to be issued every day. He suggested multiple sources of identification for registering voters instead of only CNIC and said that all those recorded under current census should be registered as voters. He also recommended emergency legislation to empower NADRA and special registration offices, mobile vans and incentives for women.Tahir Mehdi, an elections expert with Tabeer, a non-government organization, said gender gap in the electoral rolls was growing steadily since possession of CNIC was made a requirement to be included in the electoral rolls. He stated that since a CNIC was required to be on the electoral rolls and to submit ones vote on polling day, the possession of a CNIC was also the right of every citizen.He also talked about the new provisions in the Elections Act 2017 that call for the ECP and NADRA to take special measures to conduct female CNIC and voter registration in constituencies where the electoral rolls gender gap was greater than 10 percent.The NCSW and Tabeer analysis reveals that in fact the gap is less than 10 per cent in only two districts out of 134 total districts. In her opening remarks, NCSW Chairperson Khawar Mumtaz called for the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), NADRA, political parties and the government to take emergency measures for bringing an estimated 10 to 12 million missing women of voting age onto the electoral rolls. Mumtaz maintained that 2018 general elections could not be fully inclusive if the right to vote was not provided to those women through proactive measures to issue them the CNICs.The event was also launch for a nationwide campaign of collective action to close the electoral rolls gender gap through CNIC registration. The campaign, to be led by NCSW, will be informed by the recommendations made at the roundtable and through upcoming consultations in each of the provinces. Human rights: The National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) in collaboration with International Human Rights Observer (IHRO) on Friday organised a conference to celebrate the International Day of Human Rights.The aim of the conference was to find practical solutions through discussion and debate that can support human rights by implementing the sustainable development goals (SDGs).Stakeholders from government, academia, United Nations, international agencies, NGOs, grassroots organisers and activists participated in the event and shared practical solutions towards the achievement of more sustainable and inclusive societies to enjoy better human rights in Pakistan.Published in Daily Times, December 16th 2017.