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ISLAMABAD: The internet voting system for overseas Pakistanis developed by National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) is flawed, does not meet internationally practiced voting standards and needs further improvement to meet the related requirements, Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was informed Wednesday.

A top-level meeting presided over by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja and attended by Secretary ECP Dr Akhtar Nazir as well as other senior officials, reviewed the scenario involving i-voting facility for overseas Pakistanis.

Secretary Information Technology and Telecommunication (IT&T) Dr Muhammad Sohail Rajput, other senior officials of Ministry of IT&T and representatives of Spanish firm Minsait briefed the ECP on technical audit report into Nadra’s i-voting system.

The meeting was briefed by the Spanish firm that Nadra’s i-voting system has serious flaws, it lacks internationally practiced voting standards and needs further improvement to meet the international standards.

At the meeting, Nadra’s i-voting system was compared to France, Estonia and Mexico.

The meeting was informed that France discarded the i-voting system whereas Mexico and Estonia still use this system and they are bringing improvement in it.

The ECP decided to hold another meeting on i-voting next week.

A day earlier on Tuesday, Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST), in a meeting with ECP, sought time till third week of next month to prepare prototype Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and give a demonstration to ECP on the functioning of prototype EVMs.

On May 22, in what turned out to be a highly embarrassing episode for ECP, the electoral body had to delete a video critical of EVMs functioning just a few hours after it was posted on the ECP’s social media accounts, after facing strong reaction from the federal government.

An apparently embarrassed ECP then tried to pacify the government by saying that the video was posted ‘mistakenly.’

According to details, the ECP posted a video featuring a vlog of a journalist about the EVMs. The video attempted to dismiss the working of EVMs as mere ‘fraud’ and raised questions about their credibility.

This did not go down well with the federal government with senior government officials questioning this move of the ECP at a time when the electoral body is yet to hold deliberations with federal government regarding EVMs.

On May 20, the ECP, in a meeting, decided to seek from the federal government a demonstration on the functioning of EVMs prepared by MoST.

The meeting also decided to write a letter to the Ministry of IT&T to share with ECP the findings of the audit of a Spanish firm into ECP’s pilot projects regarding voting rights to overseas Pakistanis.

In December 2018, ECP submitted its report to federal government regarding its pilot projects related to voting rights to overseas Pakistanis. The IT ministry had hired a Spanish firm Minsait for the audit of these pilot projects latest by May 31, 2021.

Furthermore, the May 20 meeting decided to ask the federal government to share with the electoral body the outcome of the reports into ECP’s pilot projects on EVMs that were to be presented to the federal cabinet and the Parliament. The ECP had shared these reports with the federal government in December 2017 and April 2020.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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