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June 22, 2021

ECP withdraws representative from president-led govt body on i-voting

June 22, 2021

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has withdrawn its technical representative from the president-led Advisory Committee of Emerging Technologies on i-Voting after the government’s ‘false’ claim that the ECP was part of the consultative process that led to major changes in the electoral law and system.

On behalf of the ECP, the following view was conveyed by secretary ECP Dr Akhtar Nazir via an official letter addressed to the secretary ministry of information technology on Monday: “I am directed to inform that Mr Muhammad Khizer Aziz, Director General (IT Operations) was nominated to be part of Advisory Committee of Emerging Technologies on i-Voting. Due to unavoidable circumstances, Mr Khizer will not be able to continue to be part of the Advisory Committee. It is, therefore, requested that name of Mr. Muhammad Khizer Aziz may be excluded from the Advisory Committee.”

Informed sources say that the ECP was upset over the government’s claim that it was involved in the consultations that led to drastic changes in the electoral law and system.

Sources say that the DG IT of the ECP used to attend government meetings to discuss technical issues academically but not to take any policy decisions on behalf of the ECP. It is only the ECP which is empowered to take any policy decision and this authority cannot even be shared by the secretary Election Commission.

The ECP is unhappy that the government, without consulting the Commission, not only decided to go for i-voting, both by overseas Pakistanis and at home, but also made several amendments in the Election Act 2017. However, ministers insist that the ECP had been involved in the consultation process. The ECP had not only distanced itself from these decisions but also made public its rejection of the govt-backed amendment in the Act through the National Assembly.

It is said that the NA standing committee on parliamentary affairs held five meetings regarding the changes in the electoral legal framework, and the impression is being given by the government that the ECP was involved. However, the sources say that the DG election and DG law of the ECP were never allowed to speak in the committee which had bulldozed the bill before it was passed by the NA in indecent haste without any debate.

Upset with these changes as well as the government’s claim about its consent, the ECP last week formally conveyed its concerns over the Elections Act (Amendment) Bill to the government through correspondence.

The Election Commission has raised objections against as many as 45 out of the total 72 proposed amendments, explained in two separate letters dispatched to the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs and the Ministry of Law and Justice. Adviser on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan during a news conference a day earlier, wished the ECP had talked to the government first instead of issuing a press release concerning its objections to the amendments.