ISLAMABAD: If general elections are held in Pakistan through Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), it would be the world’s biggest e-voting experience with 120 million voters casting their votes in just one day.
Informed sources in the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) say that nocountry in the world has done so far what is expected from the Commission in the 2023 general elections. While voters in India are admittedly much more numerous than Pakistan, elections there are held in many phases on a state-to-state level, said these sources.
These sources said that the Commission is making all-out efforts to do what the government has desired through recent legislation which asks for elections to be held using EVMs. However, the ECP would not take the decision of holding elections through EVMs under any pressure because of the sensitivities involved.
“We will do it only if we are fully satisfied,” the source, holding a key position in the Commission, told The News. About the three committees constituted by the ECP recently to deliberate on the viability of the EVMs system, the sources said that the committees were given four weeks to firm up their proposal. It is said that the committees have formulated their interim reports, which will soon be discussed by the commission.
There is a main committee headed by the secretary Election Commission, which was assigned to deliberate on the entire electoral process in the light of changes required for the new electronic voting system. This committee has detailed terms of reference under which it must study different formats as are implemented in different countries. The main committee also discusses the issue of most suitable systems that could be adopted for Pakistan besides deliberating on matters like procurement, safety and the storage of the machines.
The second committee was set up under additional secretary ECP and assigned to discuss the financial aspects of the new system of voting. This committee will investigate how much the new system will cost the public kitty.
The third committee was set up under the DG Law to assess the present laws and suggest the changes required in the Constitution, law and rules to switch over to the electronic voting system.
The ECP sources said that following the government’s keenness on using EVMs, it agreed to hold the local government through EVMs but later government ministers themselves said that only direct elections of Nazims could be held through the EVMs.
These sources also explained that although the government is pressing the ECP to rush the purchase of EVMs, it can’t do so because of the requirements of the tendering process, which need to be followed and can’t be ignored.
The ECP sources said that some elements in the government are pushing for the purchase of EVMs from a Dubai-based company. It is said that the government has been told by the ECP that if the said machines are required urgently then the only possibility is to go for a government-to-government deal. In case these Dubai machines are not produced by a private firm, then the tendering process has to be followed. It is said that in the past, when the ECP conducted a by-election through EVMs as part of its pilot project, the machine’s procurement process took nine months.