ISLAMABAD: Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja Wednesday rejected, what he called, the baseless propaganda that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was opposed to use of technology, insisting that no one should expect overnight implementation of the plan.
Speaking in a ceremony held at the ECP Secretariat here to mark the National Voters Day, the CEC said the commission intended to try out different versions of the electronic voting machines (EVMs) in by-elections and local government (LG) polls in future.
He also remarked, “I challenge all critics to show one instance where the ECP has opposed the EVMS or voting rights for overseas Pakistanis, but there should be a procedure. Demonstration of the suitable machines will be given to the stakeholders and recommendations for legislation will be prepared before gradually introducing the machines countrywide.”
The CEC made it clear that the commission was all for use of technology, but stressed that there must be a consensus of all stakeholders on it. He emphasised that the EVMs should be user-friendly and ensure secrecy of the ballot.
He referred to the establishment of Project Management Unit (PMU) at the ECP in January to work on EVMs and e-voting for overseas Pakistanis, saying that it had not been done had the ECP been against the use of technology. Speaking on the pitfalls of introduction of technology in haste, CEC Raja referred to his meeting with the Brazilian ambassador and quoted the envoy saying that “it would be a miracle if the EVMs were used by Pakistan in 2023 general elections.”
The CEC contended that one must not ignore ground realities as the introduction of technology in haste could be counter-productive.
He remarked that EVMs could not be introduced merely by chanting a slogan. He said steps involved in introduction of EVMs included the selection of appropriate machines suiting the country’s environment, procurement, storage and transportation and training of individuals involved, including the polling staff.
Sikandar Sultan Raja said the next general elections will have to be conducted on the basis of existing delimitation, in case of a delay in issuance of the final notification of digital census.
It is pertinent to mention that Federal Minister Ahsan Iqbal announced the other day that the next elections would be held on the basis of digital census, which would entail fresh delimitation of constituencies.
The chief election commissioner, without naming anyone, maintained that everyone from the worker to the party head was equal before the ECP and that it acted without discrimination when the law was violated.
He did not specifically mention the PTI foreign funding and Toshakhana cases, but said major decisions had been taken by the commission. The chief election commissioner also remarked, “We might have committed a mistake, but there was no mala fide intention, as the decisions had been given without any pressure and had nothing to do with likes and dislikes.”
He said out of a total of 51 by-polls carried out in 2021 and 2022, including 17 NA and 34 PAs polls, as many as 35 were won by the opposition and this was the proof of transparency in elections, as the common perception was that the government of the day won by-polls.
He explained that during these by-polls, through various measures, strict monitoring was carried out and action was taken against the party heads, public office-holders, candidates and others concerned for violations.
Among other things, he noted that the ECP’s project management unit was also working on establishing a printing facility for the printing of electoral rolls.
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