PM offers talks on voting machines for poll credibility - Newspaper

PM offers talks on voting machines for poll credibility – Newspaper

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday directly invited the opposition to “sit together” with the government and discuss the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) to “reclaim the credibility” of elections but the opposition parties took no time in rejecting the fresh offer, saying the idea was not viable for the country and was a new “plot to rig the elections”.

“Unfortunately, no substantive (poll) reforms were put in place. Technology and use of Electronic Voting Machines are the only answer to reclaim credibility of elections. I invite the opposition to sit with us and select from EVM models we have available to restore our elections credibility,” the prime minister said in a series of tweets while referring to Thursday’s by-election in Karachi.

“In NA-249 by-election, despite a low turnout, all parties are crying foul and claiming rigging. Same happened in Daska recently and in Senate elections. In fact, apart from 1970 election, in every election claims of rigging have raised doubts over credibility of election results,” he said.

Mr Khan recalled that in the general elections held in 2013, there were disputes in 133 National Assembly constituencies before the election tribunals. He said the PTI had called for “examination” of the votes in only four constituencies and it took the party one year to get a judicial commission formed and that too after staging a 126-day sit-in. He claimed that rigging was later established in all the four constituencies and the judicial commission “found over 40 faults in the conduct of the elections”.

PPP, PML-N reject invitation, term idea ‘not viable’ in Pakistan

The prime minister also gave the example of last year’s presidential elections in the US, saying nobody paid heed to rigging allegations by former president Donald Trump only because of the use of technology in the process.

“Trump’s team did everything to dispute 2020 presidential election result; but because technology (was) used in electoral process, not one irregularity was found. For a year now, we have been asking the opposition to cooperate with us and help reform our present electoral system,” Mr Khan said.

“Our government is determined and we will put in place reforms in our electoral system through the use of technology to bring transparency and credibility to our elections and strengthen our democracy,” he declared.

Responding to the prime minister’s tweets, vice president of the main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) Maryam Nawaz also took to the Twitter and, while rejecting the talks offer, said it was the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) which was accused of rigging the by-election in Daska

“The party accused of rigging in Daska was yours but the people made you bite the dust TWICE despite your efforts to run away from re-election,” Ms Nawaz wrote while referring to her party’s victory in Daska.

“Your party came last in NA-249, so you need not worry and please don’t try to look relevant. You have been REJECTED over and over again. Step down,” Ms Nawaz said.

“And please do not try to act smart and use this as a pretext to pressurise the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and escape from the foreign funding case,” she said.

Talking to Dawn, secretary general of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Farhatullah Babar said “the use of the EVM in elections is a non-starter in Pakistani context”.

He said numerous studies had shown that it was “susceptible to manipulation and liable to be used for electoral fraud”.

“The computer-based system of voting requires computer literacy that is lacking in Pakistan. Even some of those countries which initially adopted it in some constituencies have discontinued it,” he added.

Moreover, Mr Babar said, in a country where “state agencies switched on and off internet and social media platforms with impunity on the pretext of national security”, it was not easy to trust the EVMs.

“The fear of electoral manipulation will increase, not decrease after the use of the EVMs,” he said.

Mr Babar recalled that when Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim was chief election commissioner, he tinkered with the idea and even was prepared to undertake a pilot project but had to back off when security flaws inherent in the EVMs “in our context convinced him that it was not workable”.

The PPP leader said the slogan “We do not trust voting computers” that reportedly was first adopted in the Netherlands in 2006 was likely to become a rallying point in Pakistan also.

Referring to the talks offer made by the prime minister, he said Imran Khan was stuck in a dead-end street and making offers of talks to the opposition on non-issues. “History of the past over 30 months of his style of governance shows that negotiations are alien to his temperament. The prime minister’s narcissism and self-righteous approach has been the greatest stumbling block to negotiation and continues to be so,” he concluded.

Similarly, PML-N information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb in a statement alleged that Imran Khan was cooking up a new plan to rig elections with his recent rant about the EVMs.

“Those who abducted the ECP staff in Daska should not lecture the nation on electoral reforms,” she said.

Ms Aurangzeb said what good could be achieved by an EVM in a system where RTS (Result Transmission System) was suspended over a single order. She said the PML-N would not let Mr Khan’s “sinister plans of hijacking and rigging elections” to succeed.

Ms Aurangzeb said the EVMs had failed all over the world and a study conducted by the ECP also revealed that the system of electronic voting was impractical in Pakistan.

“Even in the most technologically advanced countries, the EVMs have failed to prove as an effective system,” she said.

Published in Dawn, May 2nd, 2021

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