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ISLAMABAD: In a significant development, the federal government Wednesday put on display the prototype Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) at the Parliament House and invited political parties, media, lawyers’ fraternity and Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to give their respective inputs on EVMs for their introduction in general elections scheduled in 2023.

In this regard, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry and Advisor to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Dr Babar Awan presided over a related ceremony at Parliament House, featuring the prototype EVMs, in the presence of journalists including members of Parliamentary Reporters Association (PRA).

On the occasion, Ahsan Malik, an expert from the government’s side, demonstrated the use of EVMs by displaying mock voting.

Speaking on the occasion, the information minister said, the prototype EVMs would be provided to political parties, journalists’ bodies, bar councils and ECP for their respective inputs.

He urged the political parties; Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in particular, to join the government in introducing electoral reforms “instead of crying foul over rigging in elections.”

“First, they should come here and see what this technology is all about and what we want to do—then they should share their input—after every election in Pakistan there is a lot of hue and cry— one political party says ‘we don’t accept the result’—the other one says ‘we too don’t not accept result’ and this goes on—the election results are not delivered on polling day—till next morning—like it happened in Daska and Karachi by-elections—and this raises too many questions—this has to end.”

He said the ECP brought up 36 conditionalities for the introduction of EVMs in general elections and all of these conditionalities have been met.

“I am proud of our engineers and scientists for this achievement,” he said.

“There is a room for improvement in the EVMs that are here for display— but the process has started— and we would make sure there would be no rigging in 2023 general elections,” he said.

The federal government has suggested 49 amendments in the law to ensure electoral reforms, he said adding that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent letter to Speaker National Assembly Asad Qaiser to invite parliamentary leaders of political parties to hold deliberations on electoral reforms was part of government drive to purge Pakistan’s electoral practices of foul play.

Chaudhry clarified that EVMs are not connected to internet in order to eliminate any chances of cyber hacking. The EVMs, he said, are connected with NADRA (National Database and Registration Authority) database through USBs (Universal Serial Buses).

Moreover, these machines do not run on electricity and are powered by their own batteries, he said.

EVMs are being used worldwide by 20 countries while countries like Estonia have launched internet home-based voting for their citizens, the minister said.

The introduction of EVMs will not put extra financial burden on ECP and the government would invite tenders to launch EVMs through bidding, he added.

Babar Awan said Pakistan’s electoral system is “plagued with the cancer of rigging since 1977.”

He said “There are two options to deal with this cancer—one is to make emotional speeches, create hue and cry and launch protests against rigging and the other option is to take practical measures to introduce electoral reforms. We have preferred the second option.”

He said India has more than five times bigger population than Pakistan’s but it has put to rest electoral rigging with effective use of EVMs.

Awan invited Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif and Leader of the Opposition in Senate Yousaf Raza Gillani to review the functioning of EVMs. “I invite them right now—to be here and witness with their own eyes how EVMs work,” he said.

He said the government is relying on five different types of EVMs out of which two are imported and three are locally made.

On the cost to be incurred on EVMs, the advisor said Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs has written a letter to ECP regarding cost and related issues.

“We are not non-technical people so we are not in position right now to comment on the expenditure to be incurred on EVMs. This process would be finalised after bidding and tendering,” he said.

Both the information minister and PM’s parliamentary affairs advisor welcomed the demand of PRA to allow the use of EVMs in upcoming PRA elections and offered their complete assistance for introducing EVMs in the PRA polls.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021


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