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Pakistan

People benefitting from corrupt system are opposing use of EVMs: PM Imran

  • Says EVMs will not benefit the government in any way as the only purpose of introducing these machines is to make the polls transparent
22 Sep 2021

Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that the people who benefit from the corrupt system are opposing the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) for their vested interests.

Addressing a performance agreement signing ceremony of federal ministers in Islamabad on Wednesday, Khan said that the EVM is being introduced to end allegations of rigging in elections.

He added that there are certain elements who are against such reforms for their own personal interests. "The EVMs will not benefit the government in any way as the only purpose of introducing these machines is to make the polls transparent," he maintained.

The premier highlighted that since 1970, every politician who has suffered defeat has blamed the election system. "The EVMs will end such controversies," he said.

He mentioned that the Senate election, which has 1,500 votes, has become controversial. Khan pointed out that those who are not in favour of bringing about a change in the country are the enemies of the state.

Govt's performance

About the performance of the government, the PM said that the first year in power was about survival while in the second year, the government had to face the coronavirus pandemic and economic challenges.

He said the third year in power has now provided the government an opportunity to achieve its targets. He urged the ministers to work towards achieving quarterly targets set by their ministries and never compromise on their vision.

"We have come out of difficult times and it is now time to gear up efforts to achieve the benchmarks set for the next two years." He said we will win the next elections only through performance.

Govt has doubts over CEC's conduct: Fawad Chaudhry

The PM's remarks over the EVMs come after the government raised doubts on the conduct of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), accusing him of speaking the language of the opposition. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had issued a notice to Federal Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry over allegations that the institution had become a party in the EVM matter and is supporting the opposition.

In a press conference a few days ago, Fawad had 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," 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.

ECP's objections

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.

PM Imran inspects EVM, hopeful election results will now be accepted by all contestants

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.

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, Minister for Science and Technology Shibli 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.

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