Senate body rejects use of EVMs, i-voting in next elections

ECP officials walk out of meeting after Senator Swati accuses them of ‘taking bribe’; govt officials also walk out

Statesman Report

ISLAMABAD: Senate Parliamentary Affairs Committee rejected on Friday a proposal by the government regarding the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) and i-voting in the next general elections.

The meeting chaired by Senator Taj Haider also rejected an amendment that granted the overseas Pakistanis a right to vote in the election through i-voting.

During the meeting, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) Senator Babar Awan criticised the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) over its opposition to the e-voting machines. The senator said that the ECP is responsible for conducting transparent elections in the country, and added that the Supreme Court had also ordered it in 2014 to give overseas Pakistanis a right to vote.

Alluding to the ECP’s response on EVM, he said that no one, including the ECP, could object to parliament’s right to legislate. The committee should delete the word “objections” from the ECP response, he added. At this, Senator Haider deleted “objections” from the response.

Awan further asked how the ECP calculated that there was no time for introducing the EVMs? He said the Philippines introduced e-voting machines in a much shorter timeframe. According to the PTI senator, the ECP couldn’t express reservations without giving examples as it is an “unconstitutional practice” for a state institution.

He also asked the ECP to explain how the e-voting machines would comprise the secrecy of the ballot, adding that it seems the ECP was “shying away from fulfilling its national responsibility”. He said the refusal of the ECP to introduce e-voting meant there was something more to the issue.

He said it was the job of the ECP’s IT wing to work on the EVM issue, but it failed to do so. Awan said objections raised by the ECP to the e-voting machines was a chargesheet against it as it delayed the pilot project for several years.

Speaking about the budget for the EVMs, Awan said the government has assured the ECP regarding required funds. He added that it was the government’s job to worry about the budget, not the ECP.

Minister of State Ali Muhammad Khan chimed in and said he could not understand where did the figure of Rs150 billion come from.

Furthermore, PTI Senator Azam Swati alleged that the ECP was bought off, adding that it should be removed from the constitution. Swati said the incumbent government should be allowed to hold elections through an amendment, claiming that the ECP had been involved in manipulating elections.

At this, the ECP officials present in the meeting walked out of it in protest against the allegations made by Senator Swati.

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar intervened, saying that the government could not hijack the proceedings of the Senate body. He further asked Swati to reveal from whom did the ECP take money.

Govt members

walkout

Later, Chairman Taj Haider announced to hold a vote on the government’s electoral reform bill. Swati, however, said that government member Samina Mumtaz – who was absent from the meeting due to illness— should be allowed to cast vote online.

The committee chairman said that the members who were present in the meeting would only be allowed to cast votes. Subsequently, the government members also walked out of the standing committee.