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ISLAMABAD: The federal government on Monday announced the local government elections in the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) would be conducted using the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) – a move, which is being opposed by the opposition parties, fearing that the EVMs may be manipulated to change the polls’ result.

The announcement was made through a news conference by Minister for Science and Technology Shibli Faraz, whose ministry is leading the task to introduce electronic voting in the country amid serious concerns by the opposition parties.

Faraz said that as agreed by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), the forthcoming local government elections in the federal capital will be held using the EVMs, adding that the local government elections in Islamabad are likely to be held in April 2022.

He said that the government is cooperating with the ECP regarding the use of the EVMs, adding that his ministry would provide a specific number of EVMs to the Commission by the next week for testing and training of its staff for conducting the local government elections in Islamabad.

The minister maintained that the legislation regarding the EVMs has been completed and now it has entered implementation phase. “Conducting election through EVM is now becoming a reality. The election commission and the Ministry of Science and Technology, which represent the government, are enjoying complete working relationship and heading towards the stage of successful implementation of the EVMs,” he added.

He further maintained that the ECP has also asked the Punjab government to make arrangements for the use of the EVMs in its local government elections in the province, adding that the ECP has issued instructions to the chief secretary Punjab in this regard.

“The use of the EVMs in the local government elections will certify that holding the general elections are possible through these machines,” he said, adding that it has always been effort of Prime Minister Imran Khan to ensure, free, fair, and impartial elections in the country. “These objectives will be achieved through the use of the EVMs,” he further maintained.

Defending the government’s decision to conduct the elections through the EVMs, he said that in the recent local government elections in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, around 234,000 votes were rejected.

“This number is higher than the total votes bagged by the winning candidates, while the election results were also delayed. Had the EVMs been used in the elections, there could have been zero rejection of votes,” he further maintained, adding that results would be obtained soon after the voting process ends.

In response to another question, he said that a tender would be floated by the ECP for selection of the EVMs for the general elections, adding that it would require some time.

However, he added that for now, the ECP wants to test the EVMs during the local government elections, so that the issues, if any, could be fixed before the general polls.

To another question about the opposition’s objection over the use of the EVMs in the elections, the minister advised the opposition to send their technical teams to get briefing over the EVM technology, “instead of doing criticism for the sake of criticism.”

He further asked the opposition to become part of the “national agenda” and “realise the fact that the world is moving towards technology.”

To another query about giving the right of vote to overseas Pakistanis, he said that a mechanism is also being devised for i-voting to enable them to exercise their right to franchise.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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