ISLAMABAD: Some members of the opposition at a parliamentary committee meeting on Thursday criticised the introduction of a new electoral system arguing that the electronic voting machine (EVM) could have loopholes to ensure transparent elections.

The National Assembly Standing Committee on Science and Technology met for a briefing on the prototype of the machine. Opposition members were of the view that the EVM would create complications for common people, especially old-age villagers, who would not be able to operate the device.

The committee directed the Ministry of Science and Technology to arrange a meeting with the representatives of all political parties to build a consensus on the EVM and to observe the possibility of its improvement as well.

Earlier in May, PML-N President and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif had rejected Prime Minister Imran Khan’s proposal to use EVMs in general elections, saying the system had been rejected by the whole world. A month later, PPP’s Sherry Rehman complained with the Election Commission that for e-and i-voting to be introduced in Pakistan, all political parties must agree to it.

Earlier in the meeting, Minister for Science and Technology Shibli Faraz briefly apprized the members that the EVM was a user-friendly device and would help stop rigging in future elections.

“The weather will not have any effect on it. The chip embedded into EVM is weather resistant and could not be hacked due to its non-connectivity with the internet. The total cost of one EVM is approximately Rs70,000 and nearly 400,000 EVMs would be required in future general elections,” Mr Faraz informed the committee. He requested the opposition to avoid unnecessary criticism and float suggestions to bring improvements to the EVM. Nonetheless, the committee appreciated the efforts of Comsats University Islamabad (CUI) and the National Institute of Electronics (NIE) for preparation of the EVM in a short span of time.

Sajid Mehdi, chairman of the standing committee, discussed the pros and cons of the government and private members bills. Some members requested that the committee may not pass the bills in haste to remove lacunas and avoid the possibility of overlapping of the existing legislation.

The committee agreed in principle to defer the University of Engineering and Emerging Technology Bill 2020, the National Metrology Institute of Pakistan Bill 2021 and the National University of Technology (Amendment) Bill 2020.

Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2021

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