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ISLAMABAD: Senate Standing Committee on Parliamentary Affairs, Wednesday, recommended a ‘thorough debate’ on Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP’s) report regarding i-voting, saying foolproof arrangements need to be made to provide online voting facility to overseas Pakistanis.

The committee met under the chair of Sassui Palijo from Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).

The committee was of the view that there were certain loopholes in i-voting, as identified in an ECP report, including its “vulnerability to cyber attacks by anti-state elements.”

After a detailed discussion, the committee recommended that the i-voting should be thoroughly debated in Parliament before taking any final decision on electronic voting facility to overseas Pakistanis.

“It is the right of overseas Pakistanis to be provided with electronic voting facility. But we have to address the shortcomings involving electronic voting,” said the committee’s chairperson.

In December last year, ECP also recommended that the issue of electronic voting be debated in Parliament, cautioning that any decision taken in haste on the matter could adversely impact the electoral process.

“Any hasty decision on introducing Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), Biometric Verification Machines (BVMs) or i-voting can prove detrimental to the elections in future,” the ECP said in a statement issued then.

All the pros and cons related to the voting technologies need to be considered before taking any final decision,” the statement said.

The ECP recommended that its reports on pilot projects regarding EVMs, BVMs and i-voting should be debated in the Parliament “so that any appropriate decision is arrived at.”

In the past, the ECP remained under sharp criticism from the political parties, electoral watchdogs, civil society and public circles for failing to achieve key targets envisioned in its respective strategic plans to ensure free and fair elections including the introduction of EVMs and BVMs in the general election.

Although, the ECP used EVMs and BVMs at some polling stations during the by-elections held at certain seats of the National Assembly and provincial assemblies, the ECP’s target to introduce the EVMs and BVMs in the next general election, scheduled in 2023, appears to be a challenge due to financial constraints and capability of the commission to deal with different issues involving electronic voting, sources in the ECP told Business Recorder.

In September 2017, the test run of 100 BVMs used in a by-poll at National Assembly’s constituency NA-120 did not yield promising results as machines failed to read fingerprints of 12 percent voters, the ECP had announced then.

In November last year, Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that online voting facility would be launched for overseas Pakistanis and electronic voting would be introduced in next general elections to bring transparency in electoral process. The federal government tasked Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication (MoITT) to take all necessary steps in this regard.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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