EVMs’ use to be a good step – but not without opposition’s satisfaction

By: Ashraf Mumtaz      Published: 03:35 PM, 12 Sep, 2021
EVMs’ use to be a good step – but not without opposition’s satisfaction
Representational image.

It’s an undeniable truth that the fairness and transparency of all elections held in Pakistan in the past were disputed by the losing parties. Even the 2018 elections – that brought the PTI to power – remain controversial as the major opposition parties allege that the results were manipulated to clear the way for Imran Khan as prime minister.  

In such a situation there is a dire need for the introduction of a system that could give credible results, with no room for anyone to challenge their veracity. 

This being so the use of technology in the electoral process will be the right step – provided the opposition’s reservations/ apprehensions are addressed to their fullest satisfaction

In other words, if the use of technology is important, so is the redressal of the concerns being expressed by the opposition parties. 

And this will be possible only through an open-minded dialogue between the two sides. 

In case no consensus mechanism is worked out now the results of the 2023 elections would also be ‘suspect’ like all the past ones. 

The parliamentarians are duty-bound to find solution to all problems facing the country. Holding of such elections whose results are acceptable to all parties is one such obligation.  

The objections raised by the Election Commission of Pakistan about the likely manipulation of the electronic voting machines to benefit any particular party cannot be easily thrown away.  

The government should answer all of them without attributing motives to the ECP high-ups. 

The mere allegation that the ECP has become the opposition’s headquarters or the election body has accepted bribes, or threats that the ECP buildings should be burnt down cannot undermine opposition’s apprehensions.  

Likewise, a federal minister’s demand that the Chief Election Commissioner should step down is not the answer to the fear about EVMs’ manageability. If the government wants to remove the CEC it should adopt the constitutional course. 

Science Minister Shibli Faraz’s reported offer that if the local EVMs are not trustworthy they can be imported from some other country is a reasonable argument. His insistence that domestic EVMs cannot be hacked and he who belies the claims will be paid Rs one million in prize amounts to throwing a challenge to the opponents of the machines developed by his ministry. 

The nation had voted their representatives on both sides of the aisle to have all problems solved. Thus, it is the duty of the elected representatives to find a solution to all problems. Mere mudslinging will not help. 

The public representatives on both sides of the aisle should not forget that it’s their collective responsibility to find solution to all problems facing the country.  

If they failed to agree to a mechanism that can make the results of future elections unchallengeable, they will not be coming up to the electorates’ expectations.  

The PTI ministers are giving indications that the government will get the EVMs law passed from a joint session of parliament. No doubt the ruling party can do this because of its numerical strength in both houses. But such a move cannot change the stance of opposition parties.  

Therefore, election results will remain disputed even after the use of EVMs – and an investment of billions of rupees on them. 

Prudence demands that the two sides should sit together and find a solution rising above their petty political interests.  

And while dealing with this problem, both sides should not forget that the next elections are only two years away and a lot remains to be done before honoring this constitutional obligation. 

Federal Minister Asad Umar says the next elections will be held on the basis of new census and new delimitation of constituencies. Both of them are time-consuming exercises.  

Everyone knows that the results of the 2017 census held after a gap of 20 years have not so far been accepted by some parties. 

Sindhi leaders allege that the population of Sindh was underestimated and that of Punjab overestimated by ten million. 

This affects the share of a federating unit in the division of resources.  

In view of the yawning gap between the positions of different parties on various subjects, making arrangements for the next elections will be a race against time. And the gravity of the problem goes up when, according to some reports, the government is thinking of holding next elections a year before schedule – in July, August 2022.