The government has recently proposed to introduce the electronic voting facility for overseas Pakistanis. This is a commendable idea though it carries its fair share of risks.

Given our political culture and vulnerabilities in the system, it will lead to further deepening of political crises in Pakistan. Electronic voting has been in use in India for sometime now, but there have been repeated accusations of tampering with electronic voting machines (EVMs) by the losing side as happened during the last elections.

Given our political culture, where we hear of charges of manipulation rather than accepting defeat gracefully, and low level of digital literacy, any electoral outcome will be contested on the pretext of tampering with EVMs. Such a situation will further dampen our already fragile political system.

Also, EVMs are vulnerable to cyberattacks. Given the huge digital prowess of hostile nations, such as Israel and India, in contrast to our budding IT sector, the system will always be at the risk of cyberattacks.

We have already witnessed successful invasion of Indian spyware into WhatsApp groups of sensitive government officials last year which are deemed to be the most secure systems in the world.

The best alternative can be extending the voting facility to overseas Pakistanis through the ballot system. It is already being deployed for government officials within the country through Pakistan Post during elections and garners the confidence of all political actors.

It is deemed a fair, secure and credible method. Given the vulnerabilities attached to e-voting, even the United States, the global hub of IT, uses this method for free and fair elections. Fine-tuning the operations of the postal department in the service of democratic ideals is all that is required.

Muhammad Irfan
Chitral

Published in Dawn, January 21st, 2021

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