Science and Technology minister claims Election Commission of Pakistan must be directed to include this feature in future devices
Science and Technology Minister Shibli Faraz on Wednesday admitted that at least 3.2 million visually impaired Pakistanis will not be able to cast their vote if the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) developed by his ministry are used in the next general elections.
Responding to a query by MNA Noreen Farooq Ibrahim, he informed the National Assembly that the EVMs developed by his ministry did not have any braille feature that would allow visually impaired people to cast their vote. “A new directive must be issued to the Election Commission of Pakistan if we need to bring this feature to the EVMs’ system,” he said in a written response. .
The minister also noted that some polling stations lacked ramps that would make it difficult it for people with disabilities to exercise their right to vote.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led government has repeatedly asserted that EVMs must be used in the next general elections, claiming they are the only way to ensure free and fair polls. Earlier this month, Prime Minister Imran Khan reiterated his resolve to utilize EVMs in the next general elections “at all costs.”
By contrast, the opposition and other stakeholders, including the ECP, have stressed that the machines do not solve the intrinsic issues with Pakistan’s electoral system and have urged the government to legislate reforms before moving to the use of EVMs. The opposition has also alleged that the EVMs developed by the government are merely “tools” for rigging.
The Science and Technology Ministry, under then-minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain, developed the EVMs that the government has proposed should be utilized in all future polls. Since assuming charge, Faraz has been a vocal supporter of the devices—though this is the first time that he’s admitted that the machines could disenfranchise millions of people.
Addressing a post-cabinet press conference on Wednesday, Information Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said the federal cabinet had decided to ask the ECP to conduct by-elections in Lahore’s NA-133 constituency with EVMs as a “test” case.