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ISLAMABAD: The continued hostility between federal government and Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) related to electronic voting machines (EVMs) took a new turn on Wednesday after the Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST) rejected as ‘one-sided’ the objections to EVMs raised by the Commission while Science and Technology Minister Shibli Faraz said that those institutions that were opposing the EVMs did not want to see transparency in the electoral process.

In an ‘informal’ media interaction, MoST officials said, the 37 objections to Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) raised by Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in the meeting of Senate Standing Committee on Parliamentary Affairs, earlier on Tuesday, were ‘general’ in nature.

These objections did not specifically concern the EVMs prepared by MoST and were related to overall functioning of EVMs, the officials said.

The ECP’s Technical Evaluation Committee led by Special Secretary Zafar Iqbal Hussain met for the first time on Wednesday and was briefed by the ECP’s technical team on EVMs.

EVMs: Foreign company briefs ECP

The ECP formed this committee on August 17 after the MoST gave the commission a demonstration on function of the EVMs. The committee held its maiden meeting more than three weeks after it was formed.

The next meeting is on September 15.

Before this meeting, without considering the technical input by the committee, the ECP submitted ‘one-sided’ objections in the Senate panel, the MoST officials said.

Later, addressing a presser, Shibli Faraz, the Science and Technology Minister, said, “It’s like— the result was out before the exam was held.” He was referring to ECP’s objections to EVMs before Technical Evaluation Committee meeting.

ECP raises 22 observations on EVMs, i-voting mechanism

Taking a dig at the ECP for its opposition to EVMs, the minister said, “The ECP handout that contains 37 objections—it’s like it contains all the concerns of the world. It’s like someone asks me only about the bitter experiences of my life and I tell them about those experiences—they will say ‘suicide is better than this life’ after hearing only the bitter experiences from me….”

He said 27 of the 37 ECP observations had nothing to with EVMs or technology and were related to ECP’s capacity to handle EVMs. The remaining 10 observations were about EVMs, and the EVM machine prepared by MoST addresses all these observations.

“The 27 observations—it’s for ECP to put its house in order and take steps to improve its capacity—government’s job is to do legislation—Parliament will make laws for EVMs so that 2023 general elections become the first completely free and fair general elections in the history of Pakistan with the use of technology.”

Faraz added, “EVM is a concept—that is appreciated and opposed. Those who oppose it are the forces of status quo that have stakes in this obsolete rotten electoral system — they managed to win elections in past through every kind of foul play like coercion, intimidation, bribe, influence—all that. The EVMs bring transparency in elections, which hurts the stakes of status quo—and those institutions too— that oppose EVMs, do not want transparency in electoral process.” The minister credited Prime Minister Imran Khan for introducing neutral empires in the international cricket. “EVM is like neutral empire in elections,” he said adding that certain decisions of Supreme Court were in favour of introducing technology for transparency in the elections.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021


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