ECP unsure about holding elections through EVMs

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ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Secretary Omar Hamid Khan on Thursday said even though the bill regarding the electronic voting machines (EVMs) had been passed, he was not sure that electronic voting machines (EVMs) would be used in the next general election.

“It took India 20 years and Brazil 22 years to get themselves on the machines. It will also take us a while to get these machines up and running,” Omar Hamid Khan said, briefing a meeting of the members of National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Law and Justice, chaired by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) MNA Riaz Fatyana.

However, Prime Minister Imran Khan said that he was also very happy with the electronic voting machine because technology has created so many conveniences in the world and there could be no more foolish thinking than not using technology today.

He said that in 2008, the Election Commission had proposed electronic voting machine but after many years it was not possible because those who benefited from the old system in this country, would never allow this to happen. He explained that 1.5 million votes were lost in the last election but if there was an electronic voting machine, those votes would have been cast in the election.

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However the ECP seretary said: “There are challenges in using EVMs. We cannot say anything with surety, whether the use of EVMs will be applicable in the next elections or not.”

Omar Khan said the EVMs would have to go through 14 steps before being used in general elections. There would be three to four more pilot projects related to the use of the EVMs, he maintained.

“How many electronic voting machines there will be at a polling station also remains to be figured out,” he said. He said the state institution was also working to facilitate overseas Pakistanis.

On this occasion, MNA Aalia Kamran raised some very interesting questions including how the EVM would be used in the areas where there was no internet service. “People of Balochistan barely go for casting vote, how will they go for casting vote on the EVM,” she asked.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan said after the right of vote given to overseas Pakistanis, every government will be compelled to value them, again acknowledging the fact that ‘we have to protect overseas Pakistanis as the most important asset of this country’.

The overseas Pakistanis, he emphasised, would vote a government that would improve their lives. Premier Imran was addressing the launching ceremony of the digital portal to facilitate overseas Pakistanis here. Prime Minister said that a Pakistani based in Greece had made a suggestion on the PM’s portal regarding power of attorney in 2019 and thereafter this process was started and the Act was also changed and today this new portal has been created for those from whose remittances this country is being run.

He pointed out that overseas Pakistanis send remittances worth $30 billion. “We cannot cover up the space due to exports but today thanks to their money Pakistan stands,” he said.

PM Imran Khan said that earlier they were facilitated by technology through succession certificate, which was a long process but “today we have made this process easier and today it is another process by which we have made their lives easy.”

He noted, “Whenever there is a problem in Pakistan, including a flood or an earthquake, the overseas Pakistanis have generously helped and they want Pakistan to move forward, so in my heart they are very important. Overseas Pakistanis are our asset and if we use this asset properly we need not any loans from anyone including the IMF but unfortunately we never considered them as an asset and create problems instead of making life easier for them.”

Prime Minister said that in our time they have sent record remittances of $30 billion for which “I am grateful to them but nevertheless the investment opportunities that exist in Pakistan are not coming to Pakistan, as we did not serve them in such a way, they deserved; we have to keep them as the nation holds its greatest assets.”

Referring to the legislation passed in the joint sitting of the Parliament a day earlier, he said that he was especially happy that ‘we have included overseas Pakistanis in Pakistan’s democracy. Giving them the right to vote will have the benefit that now every government will be compelled to value overseas Pakistanis: Because they will vote for the government that will improve their lives’.

He said that through voting, people can keep an eye on the government, the number of overseas Pakistanis is 9 million and whichever government comes will value them.

Prime Minister said why these (opposition) parties are depriving overseas Pakistanis of their right to vote, “you take their money from which the country is running but they cannot vote. We will continue to create more facilities for overseas Pakistanis so that they can appreciate Pakistan,” he contended.

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