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Pakistan

Pakistan has failed to conduct free, fair elections in past 50 years: PM Imran

  • Premier says main reason behind 'Naya Pakistan' is to take the country back on the road to prosperity
Published November 10, 2021

Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that over the past 50 years, Pakistan has failed to conduct free, fair, and transparent elections that are acceptable to all parties.

Addressing members of the Parliament in Islamabad on Wednesday, Khan said there is a need to bring about electoral reforms.

About the need for introducing Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), he said that the government sought help from the opposition on how reforms could be introduced for EVMs.

PM vows to transform country into truly welfare state

"But the opposition and the Election Commission of Pakistan opposed the reforms. What does the Election Commission have to do with it?" he wondered.

He lamented how "nothing happened" even after videos emerged of senators openly receiving bribes for their votes. He said that the 2018 general elections were termed as "rigged" by the PML-N despite the election personnel being appointed during their tenure.

Politicians are aware of what happens during Senate elections, he said.

"Videos surfaced that money was being distributed [for horse-trading]. This is how low our moral values have fallen. The public representatives are seen putting money in their bags, while the Election Commission and the government look on silently."

"The Supreme Court said that verifiable vote should be introduced in Senate elections, but the opposition parties and election commission opposed it," he said, wondering why the government is being criticised for electoral reforms as it would gain no "personal benefit" from it.

The premier stated that if the leaders did not stand up to lift the morality of the nation, corruption prevails in the society. He said if a nation's morality remains intact, they cannot be beaten even with atomic bombs — just like Japan.

"We need to bring about a change and it will not benefit Imran Khan but it is for the betterment of the whole nation," he remarked.

PM committed to make ‘Naya Pakistan’ as per vision of Madina welfare state; says Asad Umar

Khan pointed out that the main reason behind 'Naya Pakistan' is to take Pakistan back on the road of prosperity. "They had sacrificed a lot in their struggle to form a country in line with Islamic teachings," he said.

"The Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had established Riasat-e-Madina and set an example for the rest of the world," he said.

The prime minister said Scandinavian countries, China, and Jews are progressing as they had followed the way of the Prophet. "Any person who follows his footsteps will thrive."

'Those benefitting from corruption oppose us of EVM'

Earlier in his address, Khan said that people who benefit from the corrupt system are opposing the use of EVMs for their vested interests.

He 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.

ECP's objections

Raising objections over the EVMs, 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 usage of EVMs, 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.

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

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.

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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