27 September 2023
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Despite the required legislation to hold elections using electronic voting machines (EVMs) going through, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is still not sure if EVMs will actually be used in the next polls.

This observation from the ECP came during a meeting of the members of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Law and Justice, chaired by PTI MNA Riaz Fatyana.
It took India 20 years and Brazil 22 years to start using these machines, ECP Secretary Omar Hamid Khan told lawmakers, explaining that it will also take them “a while” to get EVMs up and running.

The ECP official said there are challenges in using EVMs and they cannot say anything with surety on whether the use of EVMs will be applicable in the next elections or not.

Khan said EVMs would have to go through 14 steps before they can be used in the next general elections. There would be three to four more pilot projects related to the use of the EVMs, he maintained.

“How many EVMs will there be at a polling station also remains to be figured out,” he said, adding that the state institution is working to facilitate overseas Pakistanis.

On this occasion, MNA Aalia Kamran raised some very pertinent questions, including how the EVMs would be used in areas without internet.

“[The] people of Balochistan barely go to cast votes. How will they cast a vote on an EVM?” she asked.

On Friday, the PTI government bulldozed 33 bills in a joint session of Parliament, including the election amendment bill, making way for the use of EVMs in the next elections.

The Opposition has continually objected to the use of these machines, saying they are prone to hacking and not reliable.
Meanwhile, senior PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal says EVMs are vulnerable to rigging even if they do not operate online

“The machines will work under the government’s supervision. They can be tampered with,” he said while addressing the media outside Parliament House alongside PPP parliamentary leader in the Senate Sherry Rehman, JUI-F’s Shahida Akhtar and PML-N Information Secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb.

“What happened yesterday will go down as a black day in Pakistan’s history, where a red line was crossed by the government and the world saw the worst demonstration of Pakistan’s government pass controversial, polarising legislation with an artificial majority, created by coercion and carrots,” Rehman said.

Iqbal said there was information that the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) chairperson was allegedly using organisational resources and data for the government’s upcoming election campaign.

“If NADRA is found leaking national data to the government, they will be liable to face treason charges,” he said.

Iqbal, too, said it was the “blackest” day in the history of Parliament, expressing the hope that the courts would now uphold the Constitution.

Abdul Gh Lone