ISLAMABAD: The officials from the Ministry of Science and Technology miserably failed to convince a parliamentary panel, on Monday, about the working of the much-trumpeted electronic voting machines (EVMs), a brainchild of the ruling Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI).

The Senate standing committee, which met here with its chairman Senator Taj Haider in the chair, was given a detailed briefing from Ministry of Science and Technology regarding EVMs.

Detailed multimedia step-by-step presentation was given by officials from the ministry on the whole process and voting system with live demo through EVMs, but not a single member was impressed with the idea.

The committee members raised different questions regarding efficacy and security of such a system.

They showed their reservations on the very concept and overall working of the EVMs.

Senator Ali Zafar, a treasury senator, said the EVM system was just a concept under consideration, adding that was jurisdiction of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to procure machinery/necessary equipment and frame rules on its usage.

He said the government should not indulge in procurement and manufacturing of such technology, adding only the ECP should conduct experiments in that regard.

Senator Shibli, who is the minister for science and technology, seemed somewhat perturbed over the remarks by his own party senator, said the government was advocating for the EVMs in order to bring about transparency in the whole election process, so that unnecessary controversy could be avoided in future elections.

Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, a senator from opposition Pakistan People's Party (PPP) said the ECP had termed induction of the EVMs as premature, but the government was bent upon infringing upon its domain by going ahead with introduction of such technology.

Sania Nishtar, another PTI senator who is also heading Ehsaas - the government's Poverty Alleviation Programme - seemed equally upset like Shibli Faraz, after the opposition lawmakers literally left the government representatives speechless during the briefing on the EVMs.

Nishtar said it was beyond comprehension as to why introduction of modern technology in today's world and time was being opposed at such learned and prestigious forums.

"We need to evaluate what kind of issues does the EVM really solve and how the modern technology can bring about transparency in the election process. We must give technology a chance," she maintained.

Senator Haider proposed to introduce technology in multiple phases and initially focus should be on biometric identification and verification of voters.

He said that casting of votes through the EVMs could also be considered later.

To which, Senator Faraz said that both the systems should be deployed in tandem in order to ensure transparency and efficacy.

State minister for parliamentary affairs, Ali Muhammad Khan, remarked that knowledge and technology was the way forward and the opposition should not be afraid of machines.

The ECP officials briefed committee regarding two pilot projects completed by the commission.

The Director General IT ECP outlined issues faced during those trials and informed the committee members that detailed reports were sent to the parliament to which no reply has been received till date.

Committee members were invited by Senator Faraz to experience the voting process by physically inspecting the machine. The members of the committee were facilitated by the ministry officials in a mock exercise through the use of the EVMs.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021


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