Sunday Sep 19, 2021
ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry has said that the 2023 general elections will only be held after electoral reforms take place.
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad on Sunday alongside Minister for Science and Technology Shibli Faraz, Chaudhry continued his criticism of Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja, saying that he should resign and join politics if he cannot steer clear of controversies.
It bears mentioning here that Fawad's remarks came despite the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) sending legal notices to Chaudhry and Minister for Railways Azam Swati for allegations levelled against it.
Chaudhry, today, accused the CEC and Opposition of creating hurdles in the way of electoral reforms.
"A campaign is being run against EVMs," he said, adding that the CEC and the Opposition "are speaking the same tongue".
“The way the ECP raised objections on the EVMs, it reflects a particular mindset,” said Chaudhry, going on to state that the CEC is against EVMs "under some agenda".
The minister said that the objections raised on the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) were raised "deliberately" and only 10 out of the Election Commission of Pakistan's (ECP) 37 objections were related to the EVMs.
He accused the ECP of "disappearing" all points in its report that were in favour of EVM.
Chaudhry also questioned the CEC's absence in meetings attended by the president, saying that "this is not a banana republic" for him to behave this way.
"He doesn’t bother about the Supreme Court, the president of Pakistan, National Database and Registration Authority, or anything, if he is not in a good mood," the minister alleged.
The minister said that it is the first time in Pakistan’s history that the government is speaking about bringing election reforms, as in the past it was always the Opposition that talked about it.
“The reforms introduced by the government have increased the people’s trust in the voting process far beyond the previous 33% and everyone agrees that the current election system needs reforms,” said Chaudhry.
He reiterated that PTI has always supported electoral reforms and EVMs because they want unbiased and fair elections.
Chaudhry asked the Opposition and ECP to put forward their suggestions for reforms if they don’t accept the ones introduced by the government.
He added that the government will ask two members of the ECP to step forward and review the points raised by CEC Raja in the ECP report.
Faraz, while addressing the conference, said that they government is not talking about EVMs alone but also about the role of technology.
He said that the government wants to bring EVMs in order to make elections fair "but unfortunately the ECP itself is biased".
"This will not be allowed that on the whim of one election commissioner, the country is taken off the path to progress," he vowed.
The science minister said that the ECP "did not even bother to inspect the EVMs".
“27 out of 37 objections raised by the ECP highlighted its own incompetence and were criticism against itself,” said Faraz.
He said that the ECP is "just passing time" but he wants to make clear that this matter will not go to 2028.
He said that a bill will be passed for the electoral reforms in the joint meeting of the Parliament.
Meanwhile, PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb called for the ECP to "punish" federal ministers speaking out against it.
She said that the ministers are "blackmailing ECP on the orders of Prime Minister Imran Khan", adding that pressure is being mounted on the institution so that a favourable ruling can be obtained in the "illegal foreign funding case" against the PTI.
She further alleged that PM Imran Khan is "pressurising the ECP to stop a report on the Daska elections and theft of votes coming to the fore".
Aurangzeb said that the government "does not have the answers" to questions raised by the ECP and parliament.
She said that "provoking ECP members against the CEC is an attack on Constitutional bodies", demanding that the ECP take legal action against the federal ministers under Article 10 of the Election Act.
“The serious allegations against the ECP are a proof of the government’s non-democratic and dictatorial mindset,” said Aurangzeb.
She said that the government and its ministers "who are a product of Results Transmission System" are "levelling baseless allegations" against the ECP.
The PML-N spokesperson said that CEC Raja and the parliament are speaking the language of the law and Constitution "but the government cannot understand it".
Meanwhile, PPP leader Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar said that after receiving the ECP's notice, the federal ministers have "become unhinged".
"First they threaten to set fire to the institution and now a campaign is being run to make it controversial," he said, referring to remarks by Swati where he accused the ECP of taking bribes and went so far as to say it must be "set on fire".
Khokhar said that the government is out to "damage the ECP's reputation so it can get away with rigging in the next elections", adding that the EVM is a part of the same "conspiracy to steal the elections".
The PPP leader said that since the ECP raised objections on the use of the EVM, it is being "pilloried".
He drew attention to how the CEC had "refused to bow to pressure" in the Daska elections and how taking notice of "rigging", the police and administration were suspended from duty.
Khokhar said that the Opposition is trying its best to restore the reputation of the ECP as the government continues to "single out" the constitutional body.
He called for all Opposition parties, lawyers, journalists and other civil society members to extend their support to ECP
Earlier this month, the ECP had listed down 37 reservations, including one that said that EVMs are “hackable” and can be easily tampered with.
During a meeting of the Senate committee on September 8, the election commission listed down the challenges the system could face if the machines are rolled out in haste.
Of the concerns noted, the ECP wrote that there was not enough time for a “large scale implementation of EVMs in the upcoming election”, as per a copy available with Geo.tv.
Pakistan’s next general polls are slated for 2023.