ECP eyes meeting with political parties on use of technology in elections

Web Desk
A meeting underway at the Election Commission of Pakistan's office in Islamabad, on June 2, 2021. — ECP 

  • ECP says it wants to take relevant stakeholders on board before it transitions towards electronic voting.
  • Science ministry seeks more time from ECP to hand over EVMs.
  • Spanish firm tells ECP NADRA's i-voting system was not up to the mark and recommended changes in it.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) said Wednesday it would soon call a meeting of political parties to discuss and take them into confidence with regards to the use of technology in elections.

The ECP, in a statement, said a meeting between the body and the Ministry of Science and Technology was held today, where the latter was scheduled to display a prototype of the electronic voting machine (EVM).

However, the ministry has sought more time and said the final works on the machine would conclude by the third week of July, and after that, it would be handed over to the ECP.

The ECP told the ministry that it appreciates its help, but it would also take relevant stakeholders — the people and political parties — on board before it transitions towards electronic voting.

In a separate meeting, the secretary and officials of the science ministry and representatives from a Spanish consultancy firm gave a briefing to ECP officials on NADRA's internet voting system.

The meeting compared NADRA's internet voting system to France, Estonia, and Mexico. The meeting was informed that France had stopped using the i-voting system, while Estonia and Mexico were still using it.

The consultancy firm informed ECP officials that NADRA's system was not up to the mark and recommended technological changes to it.

Later, the chief election commissioner summoned a meeting next week to deliberate over the detailed report provided to the ECP by the Spanish consultancy firm.

PDM rejects EVM

The statement comes after the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), last month, had said it rejected the government's "one-sided" electoral reforms, which include the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs), and announced a fresh wave of anti-government protests.

"PDM rejects the government's unilateral electoral reforms ordinance, including the voting machines, and terms it as pre-poll rigging," PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman said, as he addressed a press conference alongside PDM leaders.

In this regard, the Election Commission of Pakistan — which is responsible for holding transparent elections — should call a meeting of all political parties to take a unanimous decision on reforms, he said.

Opposition 'does not want' reforms

Meanwhile, responding to PDM's press conference, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry said the Opposition does not want to deliberate over electoral reforms, and at the same time, demands reforms.

The minister, in a statement, said the government had repeatedly invited the Opposition to discuss the electoral reforms, but they had turned down the offer.

The information minister alleged that those who are against electronic voting want to see a rigging-riddled election system take flight in the country.

"The Opposition is confused, frustrated, and divided."