In briefing to parliamentary committee, official says 3-4 pilot projects must be undertaken before mass adoption of devices
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday informed a parliamentary committee that it was ‘premature’ to expect the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the next general elections due to some unresolved challenges.
Briefing the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Law and Justice, ECP Secretary Omar Hamid Khan said that EVMs needed to be introduced in phases, noting that initially three to four pilot projects should be undertaken before mass adoption of the devices. He also clarified that the ECP had yet to figure out how many EVMs it needed for each polling station, adding that this required further study.
Noting that it had taken India 20 years, and Brazil 22, for mass adoption of EVMs, he said it would take a “while” for Pakistan to implement the same.
Earlier, Mohsin Shahnawaz Ranjha of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) noted that the bill on EVMs adopted during a joint session of Parliament contained several “serious” flaws. He said the bill had introduced the use of EVMs without omitting the existing provision on manual voting, thereby allowing both electronic and manual voting in elections. Similarly, he said, the proposed EVMs lacked biometric verification and would have to rely on manual verification, potentially allowing someone to cast their votes against identification of deceased or absent individuals.
Science and Technology Minister Shibli Faraz, meanwhile, reiterated his government’s belief that EVMs would “ensure” free and fair elections. “Electoral process in the past was compromised and as a result political instability and uncertainty was created. To address such problems, using technology is the way forward. However, political parties today are resisting change to deprive the nation of a transparent electoral process,” he claimed during a press conference in Islamabad.
Reiterating claims that the opposition had “wanted the issue [of EVMs] to linger on,” he said the passage of the bill in a joint sitting had made the machines a reality. “We had invited the opposition to test the device to show that it was user friendly and that it ensured transparency in voting process,” he claimed, adding that the opposition had rejected the devices without proper vetting.