National Assembly passes bill to repeal use of EVMs in elections
Lawmakers also sign up abolishing overseas Pakistanis’ right to vot
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The National Assembly (NA) on Thursday passed the Election Act, 2017 Amendment Bill, under which the amendments introduced with respect to the electronic voting machines and overseas Pakistanis’ right to vote by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government were abolished, reported 24NewsHD TV channel.
According to the changes made to the Election Act’s sections 94 and 103, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was asked to initiate pilot projects for giving the right to vote to overseas Pakistanis as well as for using the EVMs. The legislation was aimed at conducting pilot projects in local by-elections before using the I-Voting and EVMs in the next general elections.
Commenting on the occasion in the Lower House, Federal Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar rejected the impression that the amendment was aimed at depriving overseas Pakistanis of their right to vote. “Overseas Pakistanis are a precious asset of the country and the government does not believe in snatching their right to vote,” he stressed.
Regarding the use of EVMs, the law minister said that the Parliament was not against the use of technology, but had concerns about its misuse as the Result Transmission System (RTS) had failed during the last general elections "to favour a particular political party".
“The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had also expressed its inability to hold elections through I-Voting and EVMs in a short span of time and without proper homework. It had raised its concerns about the amendments made during PTI’s government as the stakeholders were not taken into confidence.”
The minister further added that “two amendments are being brought to revive the Elections Act 2017, enabling the ECP to ensure free, fair, and transparent elections”.
The law minister further added that under the amendment in Section 94 of the Election Act, 2017, the commission may conduct pilot projects for voting by overseas Pakistanis in by-elections to ascertain the technical efficacy, secrecy, security, and financial feasibility of the new voting process and shall share the results with the government.
“Under Amendment in Section 103 of the Election Act, 2017, the ECP may conduct pilot projects for utilisation of EVMs and biometric verification system in the by-elections,” he added.
The law minister further said that a parliamentary committee had been formed for electoral reforms in which all political parties are represented.
Following the remarks, the bill was passed clause by clause and the amendments of the previous government regarding overseas voting including electronic voting machines were deleted.
PM felicitates Raja Riaz on becoming opposition leader
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday felicitated Raja Riaz on his appointment as Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly and assured him of support on behalf of the treasury benches.
“We will bury ill traditions of the past by exhibiting a positive approach towards the Opposition and giving them space to utter their point of the view,” he said while speaking at the floor of the House.
Responding to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s remarks, Raja Riaz
said the opposition wanted the government not to pay heed to conspiracies and attempted chaos and hold the general election after the completion of its five-year tenure.
He assured his optimum cooperation with the government, playing a positive role in opposition and pinpointing shortcomings of the government.
Meanwhile, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Murtaza Javed Abbasi moved a motion seeking the House’s consent for suspending question hour and taking other agenda items on priority. Subsequently, the question hour was suspended.
Reporter: Usman Khan