ISLAMABAD: Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said on Monday that Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) were the best tools of ensuring transparency and fairness in elections process.
In an interview, the minister said that all the work on technology has been completed and if there was consensus between the government and the opposition, then the next elections could be held on EVMs. He said that a mechanism would have to be developed for transparency in the election process, he said adding that EVMs fulfill all the requirements of Election Commission of Pakistan. The minister said that use of EVMs was one step ahead of the existing paper-based system and would reduce the chances of manipulation in the elections and results would be available immediately, including an electronic trail and a paper trail.
“Our emphasis on electronic voting machines is because they are not connected to the Internet”, the minister said. Chaudhry Fawad said voting usually ends at 5 O’clock in the evening during the election and the people have to wait until the next morning to get the results, but the use of electronic voting machines would make election results available immediately. Regarding the rigging charges in recent the AJK elections, he said, the PML-N was in power and the prime minister also belonged to PML-N. Moreover a senior member of the Election Commission was also a close relative of the then prime minister of Azad Kashmir.
The appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner, he said, was also done by the Azad Kashmir government itself, while the police and the administration were also under the control of AJK prime minister. But when the PML-N lost the election, the then AJK PM alleged rigging. If the opposition parties lose the election, they claim rigging and if they win, they say the elections were free and fair, the minister remarked. He said the best way to get rid of these allegations was to develop a mechanism so that the transparency of the elections cannot be questioned.
The minister said that for ensuring transparency in elections, the stance of the Prime Minister Imran Khan and PTI was to move towards technology as it would bring transparency in elections like the advanced democracies. The Election Commission set 36 conditions, he said adding that if an electronic machine meets those conditions, it can be used in the election process. He said that the new technology brought by the government met all the requirements of the ECP.
Regarding the concerns of the stakeholders, the minister said that the stakeholders include the Election Commission and the opposition parties and these machines fulfill all the conditions of the Election Commission as far as the opposition is concerned, they have not seen this technology as yet. He said that the opposition should first have a look at these machines and then make its own decision. Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said that at present there were three types of technologies being discussed in electoral reforms which include electronic voting machines, internet voting and biometrics, these three were not interlinked.
He said that at present five companies were developing EVMs which meet the requirements of the ECP. He said that there was no problem with technology and the issue of their price may be discussed. Replying to a question, he said that there were two parts of the legal provisions in this regard, one part was related to giving powers to the Election Commission. He said that the National Assembly has passed the bill in this regard which was now tabled in the Senate. Two Senate committees were working on it, the Senate Political Committee comprising members of the opposition and the government in which the bill was being debated.
The bill was also being considered in the Senate Committee on Parliamentary Affairs. If further amendments were made to this bill in the Senate, it will come up again in the National Assembly and a fresh vote would be done in the National Assembly again. He said that if there was a consensus between the government and the opposition, it would be implemented soon. Asked about holding the next elections on EVMs, he said that there was no problem in holding the next elections on EVM. He said a consensus was built between the opposition and the government, the purchase of EVMs could be started the next day and the next elections can be held on EVMs.
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