ISLAMABAD: A deadlock persists over cost of the hardware security module (HSM) proposed to be installed in each biometric verification machine having offline data of voters stored in it, with no possible solution in sight for the time being.

Sources told Dawn that the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) wanted international standard HSM to be installed in each machine to make sure that in case of its theft the encrypted data would remain safe in the face of decryption threat posed by cyber terrorists.

Take a look: Off-line biometric voting possible, says Nadra

The Ministry of Information Technology, on the other hand, wanted Nadra to hand over the offline data to it and get the job done through private vendors at a lower cost, the sources said.

A participant of a meeting of the parliamentary electoral reforms committee on Wednesday, presided over by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, told Dawn that the proposed addition of the HSM to the machine would increase its cost from $200 to $2000.

Talking to reporters after the meeting, Mr Dar said the committee had expressed satisfaction over the progress made so far on the issue of electoral reforms. He said a lot of work had been undertaken and because the next general elections were two and a half years away there was no need for haste.

“Some people were anxious for elections last year,” he said, in an indirect attack on the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).

No timeframe could be given for completion of the task assigned to the committee, he said adding: “We want to do something which has durable impact on the electoral processes.”

The minister said the sub-committee of the parliamentary panel would prepare a draft law within the next three weeks. Agreement had already been reached on a number of constitutional amendments, while the controversial amendments would be considered in the committee’s meetings.

He expressed optimism that the next general elections would see the wide use of electronic voting machines and the biometric verification system. A sub-committee had been formed whose convener was Dr Arif Alvi and which would deal with the concerns expressed by the PTI.

A participant of the meeting said the PTI wanted introduction of electronic voting machines and the biometric verification system without any delay, besides giving overseas Pakistanis the right to vote.

Mr Dar, however, said that experiments involving both postal ballot and tele-voting carried out in the recent past had failed to achieve the desired results, underling the need for more tests to guarantee that any system introduced was not prone to any corrupt practice.

Published in Dawn, January 14th, 2016