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ISLAMABAD: Two weeks after having received a demonstration by the Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST) over the EVMs the ministry had developed, the ECP on Tuesday received another briefing and demonstration, this time from Smartmatic, a multinational company that specialises in Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and is headquartered in the United Kingdom.

The experts from the said company visited the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Secretariat where they briefed the ECP officials led by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja.

The ECP officials were given demonstration of different EVMs and were briefed about their functioning; hardware, software and related aspects, the ECP said in a statement issued after the briefing. The ECP officials asked questions to the Smartmatic team and raised their concerns regarding EVMs, the statement said.

The visiting team assured the ECP to further improve the EVMs keeping in view the requirements of ECP, the electoral body said. The ECP quoted the CEC as saying that the ECP believed in transparency in the electoral process and technology should be relied upon for this purpose.

"But it is important that ground realities are considered related to the introduction of technology that should enjoy the confidence of all the stakeholders including public and voters," Raja said.

On August 17, the ECP formed a Technical Evaluation Committee to review locally-made EVMs "from every aspect" after receiving a briefing by a MoST team led by Science and Technology Minister Shibli Faraz.

The ECP officials raised questions and concerns regarding EVMs during the briefing. They conveyed to the MoST officials that relevant laws needed to be amended for the introduction of EVMs in general polls.

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

After MoST's demonstration, the ECP 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.

Three days later, Prime Minister Imran Khan on August 20 "emphasised on responding to unwarranted criticism against EVMs with facts."

He shared these views while presiding over a high-level meeting on EVMs. The PM directed to formulate an awareness campaign to sensitize the people and stakeholders about the utility of EVMs. The PM was informed about the Judicial Commission's proposed legal amendment regarding the use of EVMs, it said, adding the meeting was also informed that steps like the use of EVMs were aimed at ensuring transparency in the elections.

On Thursday, Faraz briefed the National Assembly Standing Committee on Science and Technology that the locally-made EVMs would be priced at 70,000 rupees per machine while federal government plans to acquire around 400,000 EVMs (including locally-made and imported ones) for the 2023 general elections. He said an EVM was a user-friendly machine that would significantly help stop rigging in future general elections.

The machine was waterproof, weather-resistant and could not be hacked due to its non-connectivity with internet, Faraz said. He urged the opposition lawmakers to "avoid unnecessary criticism - and float suggestions to bring improvements in EVM."

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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