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ISLAMABAD: “The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) intends to launch pilot testing of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the next general elections or local government polls - besides working on internet voting (i-voting) facility for overseas Pakistanis for which funds have been sought from the federal government.”

This was disclosed by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja at the seventh National Voters Day ceremony, here on Wednesday.

Speaking on the occasion, the CEC said that the ECP’s Technical Evaluation Committee reviewed in detail the legal, technical and financial aspects of the EVMs and i-voting for overseas Pakistanis. The commission intends to hold pilot testing of both the voting technologies in the general or LG polls and give a demonstration to all the stakeholders, he informed.

The ECP also intends to prepare proposals for legislation on EVMs and i-voting for overseas Pakistanis, he said.

It is worth recalling here that EVMs and i-voting for overseas Pakistanis were at the forefront of the electoral reforms agenda introduced by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s former federal government through significant parliamentary legislation.

However, the present government, also through legislation, reversed the introduction of the EVMs and i-voting for overseas Pakistanis in the next general polls — a move strongly criticised by several public and political circles.

Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and former prime minister Imran Khan has publically lambasted not only the federal government but also the ECP for their alleged opposition to the EVMs and i-voting for overseas Pakistanis. The introduction of both these technologies would help eliminate foul play in the polls, the PTI chief insists.

Apart from that, the CEC said, the ECP’s Project Management Unit (PMU), established in January this year, is working in coordination with the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to finalise i-voting design and solution. The commission has asked the federal government to ensure the provision of required funds for i-voting, he added.

Raja said the ECP has upgraded its Result Management System (RMS) that has been used in 38 by-elections.

In 2021 and 2022, so far, 17 by-elections for National Assembly and 34 by-elections for provincial assemblies have been held, Raja mentioned.

“There’s a general perception that the sitting government tends to win the by-polls but 35 of these by-elections were won by the then opposition and only 16 were won by the then government—which is a clear proof of transparency of these elections,” the CEC argued.

More than 3.8 million female citizens have been issued computerised national identity cards (CNICs) as part of the ECP drive to bridge the gender gap between male and female voters, he informed, adding that the ECP initially conducted a pilot survey in 20 districts across the country to identify the reasons of disparity in the number of male and female voters.

The foremost reason of this disparity was the non-issuance of the CNICs to female voters, Raja said, adding that awareness campaigns were launched in 103 districts countrywide in collaboration with the NADRA to bridge the gender gap in male and female voters.

Presently, this campaign is underway in 84 districts, the ECP’s top official said.

Sikandar Sultan Raja urged the youth, the female voters, in particular, to get registered as voters. “You still have time,” he said.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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