- Says the Chief Election Commissioner scrapped all arguments in favour of EVMs from the report to rob it of its substance
Federal Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry has said that the government has doubts on the conduct of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) as he is speaking the language of the opposition.
Addressing a press conference along with Science and Technology Minister Shibli Faraz in Islamabad on Sunday over the matter of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM), Fawad said there is a difference between the election commission and an election commissioner and it is the latter whose character is questionable.
The CEC has seemingly decided against the EVM without even considering the report, he said.
"The CEC scrapped all the supporting arguments in favour of the EVMs from the report to rob it of its substance," Fawad said.
He added that the election commissioner will have to show seriousness as the objections raised by the ECP are not valid.
The minister maintained that it is the responsibility of parliament to decide the process of conducting elections in the country and the ECP should respect the decision.
"All the statements are being issued to make the EVM controversial. The CEC is running a campaign against EVMs. I ask of only two other members of the ECP to come forward and review the report for themselves," he said.
"Out of 37 objections raised against EVMs by the report, only 10 were relevant while all others were only added for the purpose to discredit it," he said, adding that the final decision regarding the use of EVMs will be taken in parliament and not by the ECP.
He pointed out that the government wants to hold the next elections in a free and transparent manner.
Fawad's remarks come after the ECP issued a notice to him over allegations that the institution had become a party in the EVM matter and is supporting the opposition.
Speaking on the occasion, Shibli Faraz said his ministry had prepared a prototype of the EVM and invited the political parties and the ECP to examine its functioning, but they did not take it seriously.
He said if ECP does not trust the machine prepared by the Ministry of Science and Technology then it is free to procure such a machine from anywhere.
He said we have no priorities regarding the use of a particular machine as we only want a technology driven election to give them credence.
The ECP said the time is too short for a large-scale procurement and deployment of EVMs and imparting training to a massive number of operators. It stated it is not advisable to introduce EVM nationwide in one go. It said the polls on one day as required under the law would be nearly impossible.
The ECP also referred to various other issues linked with the use of EVM, including lack of ballot secrecy, lack of capacity at all levels and lack of ensuring security and chain of custody for the machines at rest and during transportation.
It also pointed out that there would be no evidence available in case of an election dispute. The ECP noted that data integration and configuration issues may crop up due to court orders at the eleventh hour regarding a change in the ballot paper.
The commission said there is an absence of dust and humid-free controlled temperature environment warehouse for storage. It said technical operators needed to be trained while there is no consensus among the stakeholders on EVM which is also not financially feasible.
ECP objections ‘one-sided’
The ECP said EVM could not prevent low voter turnout, low women’s turnout, misuse of state authority, election fraud, electronic ballot stuffing, vote buying, the law and order situation, dishonest polling staff, widespread political and electoral violence and abuse of state resources.
The commission observed that in case of introduction of the technology in haste, the conduct of free, fair, credible and transparent elections as per the Constitution is not possible. It pointed out that Germany, Holland, Ireland, Italy and Finland had abandoned the use of EVM due to lack of security.
Govt rejects ECP stance
Earlier, in response to ECP's objections, Faraz had said 27 of the 37 ECP observations had nothing to with EVMs or technology and are related to ECP’s capacity to handle EVMs. The remaining 10 observations are about EVMs, and the EVM machine prepared by MoST addresses all these observations, he said.
“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 that EVM is a concept — that is appreciated and opposed as well. He mentioned those who oppose it are the forces of the status quo that have stakes in this electoral system through which they have managed to win elections in the past.