Urging the people to ‘trust it’, president signs Election (Amendment) Bill, 2021 into law
President Arif Alvi on Thursday urged opponents of the controversial electronic voting machines (EVM) to “trust it” and stop being “afraid” of a simple machine that will end rigging and lead to fair elections.
“Do not be afraid of a simple EVM. It will help hold fair elections and bring an end to rigging,” he said while addressing a ceremony to sign the Election (Amendment) Bill, 2021 into law. “People will have to trust it. It is not very technical. The country achieves progress by adopting new things,” he added.
Passed through a joint session of Parliament amidst opposition protest, the bill directs the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to utilize EVMs for the next general elections and grant overseas Pakistanis the right to vote from their place of residence.
Claiming that EVMs would result in free and fair elections, Alvi reiterated the government’s stance that all previous elections had been plagued by rigging claims that had led to the credibility of governments being questioned. He said that that once it proved successful in future elections, the EVMs would be marketed as a “Product of Pakistan”—even though the ECP has yet to confirm that it would even utilize the EVMs produced by Pakistan and would not prefer to contract an external vendor.
Calling it a “great step”, the president said the legislation was only made possible because Prime Minister Imran Khan and his cabinet had refused to budge from its position despite resistance. The EVMs would allow for print-outs of a vote on the spot instead of printing ballot papers and the technology would end printing of extra ballots, he said. He also claimed it would end the practice of “kidnapping” presiding officers without offering any explanation of how that would occur.
Maintaining that the process was simple and easily understood, he questioned why there was so much resistance to the move.
On the legislation’s requirement of internet-voting for overseas Pakistanis, Alvi claimed concerns over it being hacked were misplaced, as digital banking transactions in much larger quantities were conducted daily. He explained that multiple issues prevented the government from allowing in-person voting for overseas Pakistanis.
The president claimed the countries that had rejected the EVMs already had better systems in place and Pakistan needed this technology due to its system’s weakness; the ECP has already explained that EVMs do nothing to fix the “system” and had urged the government to legislate reforms that boosted voter participation prior to utilizing EVMs.
“Don’t worry, the nation will be convinced [about EVMs]. Following this, the country will make progress in other fields too,” he claimed.
Earlier, Science and Technology Minister Shibli Faraz described the legislation as a historic achievement, reiterating the PTI’s stance of the EVMs ending “controversies” on the fairness of past elections. He said the ministry had gotten the EVM prototype completed within 90 days, stressing it was still the ECP’s mandate to decide whether or not it wanted to use this device.