Sunday May 02, 2021
LAHORE: PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif has turned down the government's proposal to use electronic voting machines in the next general elections.
"The electronic voting system has been declared a failure by the entire world," said the former Punjab chief minister, adding that electoral reforms are undertaken with the consultations of all key stakeholders, the public's opinion and by developing a consensus.
He said the PML-N had undertaken electoral reforms in 2018 via consultations with all political parties in the country, including the PTI. "No one had any reservations with the electoral reforms undertaken during our era," he said.
Criticising the government, Sharif said when the Opposition wanted to sit with the government to discuss the Charter of Economy and provide it positive recommendations, the authorities were not ready to listen to it.
"At that time, [the government] started insulting the Opposition by using the NRO slogan," he said.
The PML-N leader said bringing about electoral reforms was possible, adding that to do that, the Opposition should be taken on board and the government must demonstrate a willingness to adopt the recommendations provided by the Opposition.
He said a country's integrity increased by the implementation of justice, transparency and rule of law rather than electronic voting machines.
"Worry about the public reeling from an economy in shambles, inflation and unemployment instead of electronic voting," he said.
Most major Opposition parties earlier dismissed the proposed electoral reform being vigorously touted and pursued by Prime Minister Imran Khan: the introduction of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the next general elections.
The Opposition argues that anything that is controlled and operated by others and can be handily used to manipulate electoral results is unacceptable and rejected. They add that they would strongly oppose the introduction of EVMs in parliament.
Not only has the prime minister championed the use of EVMs but President Dr Arif Alvi has also held frequent meetings to push the use of the voting machines in future elections. They have also been given demonstrations of the machines, manufactured by local state-run institutions. However, none of them has bothered to take any opposition party on board in this important debate.
“The countries where EVMs have been tried and tested have either already reverted to paper ballots or are going back to the old system for different reasons,” former Speaker and prominent PML-N leader Sardar Ayaz Sadiq told The News when contacted.
He said that during his incumbency as the speaker, two delegations had visited foreign countries to study the EVM system. One of them also included Dr Arif Alvi.
“A financially tied-up country like Pakistan can’t afford billions and billions of rupees to purchase hundreds of thousands of EVMs. Additionally, because of technical problems, the country can’t ensure uninterrupted electricity supply and internet service all over Pakistan to keep the EVMs functional on polling day,” the former speaker had said. “We have to keep in view our resources and capacity.”