The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has raised 37 objections to the introduction of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). A federal minister has termed it an FIR of murder against EVMs.
According to the report, the ECP in a document presented to the Senate Standing Committee on Parliamentary Affairs, which met for the second day in a row under the chairmanship of Senator Taj Haider, warned that the machine could be tampered with. Its software can be easily changed. “It is almost impossible to ensure that every machine works honestly,” the document said.
Representatives of civil society also attended the meeting and opposed both plans to introduce EVMs and internet voting for Pakistanis abroad. The ECP had submitted objections to the Senate panel for voting on two controversial bills seeking amendments to the Election Act a day earlier than its schedule. ECP Special Secretary Zafar Iqbal Hussain and Director General IT Khizar Aziz attended the meeting.
The ECP said there was little time for large-scale procurement and deployment of EVMs and training of a large number of operators. It is not appropriate to introduce EVMs all over the country at the same time, as required by law, polling in one day will be almost impossible.
The ECP also cited several other issues related to the use of EVMs. These include ballot confidentiality, lack of capacity at all levels, and lack of security and handling of machines during brakes and transportation.
He also said that no evidence would be available in the event of an election dispute. Last-minute court orders to change ballot papers can lead to data integration and configuration issues. The ECP said the absence of a warehouse with a suitable temperature-free environment free of dust and moisture to keep the machine was also a problem.
He said there were many things for technical operators to learn, adding that there was no consensus among stakeholders on EVMs which would not be financially sound. The ECP said that the low number of EVM voters, low turnout of women, misuse of state power, electoral fraud, electronic ballot, vote-buying, law and order situation, polling staff, large-scale political And it cannot stop electoral violence and abuse of the state.
He said that free, fair, credible, and transparent elections could not be held in accordance with the constitution in case of hasty introduction of technology. It was pointed out that Germany, the Netherlands, Ireland, Italy, and Finland have stopped using EVMs due to lack of security.
Zafar Iqbal Hussain on EVMs
Zafar Iqbal Hussain told the meeting that ECP was in favor of technology but it should be safe and tested. He said that there should be a consensus among the stakeholders and EVM should not be introduced in unnecessary haste. He said the machine should not be used for the next general election.
Ali Muhammad Khan on EVMs
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan termed the ECP document as an FIR against EVM for murder and demanded that the machine be introduced during the next general elections. He said that this pilot project should be introduced in this period.
“We are not here to reinvent the wheel, an informed decision must be made. If there are any concerns, the government and the Ministry of Science and Technology are ready to deal with them,” he said.