Senator Saleem Mandviwalla says his party will stand with the ECP and will not allow anyone to curb its independence
The opposition on Tuesday accused the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PT)-led government of “threatening” the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) by linking the release of funds for it to the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in future polls.
In a statement, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Senator Saleem Mandviwalla described the federal cabinet’s decision—as announced by Information Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain—as a “direct threat” to, and interference in, the powers of the ECP. “This decision of the federal cabinet is ridiculous and condemnable,” he said, noting that both the ECP and the opposition had already expressed reservations over the use of EVMs in elections.
The senator stressed that the ECP was the sole authority to conduct elections under the Constitution, adding that the federal government could not impose its “favorite decisions” on it. He vowed that the PPP would stand with the ECP and would not allow anyone to curb its independence.
Sources within the ECP, meanwhile, said it would not permit the government to “pressure” it into rushing the process of implementing EVMs in elections, reiterating that it had yet to determine how many machines would be required or even which machines it would utilize.
Stressing that acquiring the EVMs was not a “joke”, they said that the ECP would carry out its duties in accordance with the Constitution and had formed committees to calculate the expenditure of EVMs; develop a procedure for overseas Pakistanis to vote from their place of residence; and amend existing rules and regulations to bring them in line with the new legislation passed by a joint session of Parliament.
Meanwhile, in an appearance on private broadcaster Geo News, former ECP secretary Kanwar Dilshad said no government body could withhold funds from the ECP, adding that any attempt to do so could prompt a contempt case. “The ECP is a constitutional institution and enjoys the same protocols and powers as the Supreme Court. As such, it will obtain the funds from the Ministry of Finance under Article 222 of the Constitution,” he said.
Earlier, on Tuesday, the information minister had claimed that the federal cabinet had decided to link the release of funds for the ECP to the use of EVMs, claiming that after amendments to the Elections Act 2017, the autonomous institution was “bound” to use the devices in all future elections.