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ISLAMABAD: A clear divide between the federal government and ECP on the issue of EVMs became visible Tuesday after the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) formed a technical evaluation committee to review Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) "from every aspect" as the ECP officials raised questions and expressed concerns on the functioning of EVMs during a related briefing given by Science and Technology Minister Shibli Faraz.

On the other hand, Faraz claimed before the media that ECP "expressed satisfaction" over the EVMs prepared by his ministry.

However, an ECP statement issued after the demonstration given by the Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST) officials said Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, ECP members and other senior officials raised questions and concerns during the briefing.

The ECP was briefed on different functions of EVMs including its software, hardware and other features.

The ECP officials also conveyed to the MoST officials that relevant laws needed to be amended for the introduction of EVMs in general polls.

EVMs couldn’t be hacked, best solution to problems of rigging: Shibli

The MoST team assured the ECP that it would improve EVMs in the light of recommendations made and concerns raised by ECP, the statement said.

The ECP said its Technical Evaluation Committee would review the EVMs from every aspect and submit its report to the electoral body.

The ECP also announced to hire the services of technical consultants to assist the commission on issues like EVMs, internet voting (i-voting) for overseas Pakistanis, preparation of voter lists and related issues.

The ECP clarified that MoST's briefing to EVMs only entailed the introduction of the EVMs while legal, administrative, logistics, storage, technical support, training and manpower-related issues involving EVMs still require to be worked on.

The ECP quoted the CEC as saying that ECP was not against the use of technology. "But it is important that ground realities are considered related to the introduction of technology that should enjoy the confidence of all the stakeholders and voters. The ECP believes in transparency in the electoral process and believes that technology should be relied upon for this purpose," the CEC said.

However, Shibli Faraz told a different story. He told the media after the EVMs demonstration that CEC "congratulated us on the preparation of EVMs."

The ECP, he said, expressed its satisfaction on the EVMs prepared by MoST.

He said the ECP officials asked some 75 questions related to the functioning of EVMs all of which were answered by the MoST team.

The government and ECP, in principle, have decided to use technology in general elections 2023, Faraz said.

Electronic voting machines are ready: Shibli

"All the elections held in the past in this country were marked with serious controversies-there were allegations of massive rigging and all that-the successful introduction of EVMs would put to rest every kind of foul play in the electoral process-once for all," Faraz said, adding that the government would go for political consensus on parliamentary legislation to introduce EVMs in 2023 general polls.

Any decision taken by the ECP on EVMs would be accepted by the government in letter and spirit, he said.

"We cannot dictate the ECP," Faraz said.

He invited opposition parties to give their input to the government regarding EVMs if they wanted free and fair elections in the country. "There is nothing hidden regarding EVMs," the minister said.

Earlier, the ECP did not allow the media on Tuesday to witness MoST demonstration to electoral body on EVMs while the government claimed that the said demonstration was "hugely successful." Several journalists had gathered at the ECP Secretariat in connection with the scheduled demonstration of EVMs functioning, only to be told by the ECP officials that they would not be allowed to witness the demonstration. MoST officials, on the other hand, informed the media that they did not have any objection to media witnessing the demonstration but the ECP did not allow it.

Senior officials from ECP, MoST and information technology (IT) experts from relevant ministries witnessed the EVMs demonstration. On August 10, the ECP received a letter from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and another letter by MoST on August 12 seeking the ECP's time for EVMs demonstration. In response, the ECP scheduled the EVMs demonstration on August 17 and requested the two ministries to "mutually coordinate" for this purpose.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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N K Ali Aug 18, 2021 12:24pm
Oof! The ECP asked 75 questions on electronic voting machines to the MoST team and they had the patience to answer all of them satisfactorily. My goodness! Are there any experts on IT employed at the ECP? Or did they ask the questions on their own practical and theoretical experience and knowledge of law? My only request is since humans have failed to show honesty, that is why human intelligence has invented ECMs based on Info Tech. Remove the kinks and glitches and lets get on with it and life. Salams
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