Sunday December 10, 2023

Of 37 objections, 27 pertain to ECP's lack of capacity: Shibli

September 10, 2021

ISLAMABAD: Science & Technology Minister Shibli Faraz has said that of the 37 observations made by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), ten relate to electronic voting machines (EVMs) while 27 pertain to its own lack of capacity.

“The ECP’s objections are based on old reports concerning the EVMs,” he told The News and divided the ECP observations in two categories.

According to the minister, the ten ECP points about the EVMs include lack of ballot secrecy, voter anonymity and transparency; that the machines are hackable and tamper-prone; source code alteration; biases of the machines; re-usability of technology (easy upgradation indigenous made); lack of evidence in election dispute; results delayed; and technical challenges and upgradation.

Shibli Faraz counted the 27 ECP observations related to its capacity building: pointing out that there is lack of time till the next election; lack of capacity at all levels; lack of massive pilot testing; lack of ensuring security and chain of custody; EVMs can’t prevent rigging like booth capturing; lack of independence of election management body; poll in one day using EVMs impossible; lack of voter education and awareness and literacy; all processes are outsourced (privatization); warehouse storage; lack of trained staff; lack of capacity building; logistics and transportation; scalability, magnitude and geography; EVM can’t thwart low voter turnout, misuse of machine, election fraud, ballot stuffing, vote buying, law and order; international standards definition (by ECP); international standards provisions; vendor management; financially not viable; legal amendments are essential; no consensus among stakeholders; lack of public trust in introducing EVM in one go; lack of trust of stakeholders and civil society; process in haste, negation of international standards; Germany and Holland abandoned due to lack of transparency; Ireland, Italy and Finland abandoned due to lack of security; and data integration, configuration issues.

The minister said that the one-sided ECP observations and reservations were of a generalized nature. It is not fair to announce the result even before the exam, and this is what the ECP has done even before testing the EVM, he said.

Shibli Faraz said that the ECP wrote a letter to his ministry on Sep 7 informing it that a meeting of its technical evaluation committee will be held the following day under the chairmanship of its special secretary and requested to detail a technical team of the ministry related to the prototype of the EVM. The technical team would meet again on Sep 15.

He said he as the science & technology minister had sought the specifications of the EVM from reputed technical experts, who came out with 58 conditions. He said the prototype was prepared as per these specifications so that it was fault-free.

The minister said the ECP had also been briefed on Aug 8 and every question it put had been answered. He said the ECP’s objections were beyond his comprehension.

Shibli Faraz said that the opposition parties did not want the use of EVMs in elections as they know that they can’t win fair, free and transparent polls. He claimed that the opposition was fond of elections that were rigged to ensure its victory. He said that on its part the government was going ahead with putting the EVMs in operation in future elections so nobody disputes them after the results come in.