THE passage of bills pertaining to the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) and inclusion of the overseas Pakistanis in the next election is a positive development. But there are multifarious complications attached to the issue that need to be taken due care of.
First, there is little guarantee that the EVMs will entirely work without any loopholes in the system as their introduction would be a whole new experience for those responsible for operating it.
Second, the technical drawbacks in the system can alter the election results which the opposition has raised concerns about. And, finally, paying no heed to the opposition in terms of making an inclusive decision has marred the democratic process and has gone farther from the notion of transparency.
Moreover, the cost attached to procure and install the required number of EVMs has been quoted to range from Rs70bn to Rs120bn, which may be a challenge in the prevailing economic situation.
An even worrisome problem is that of a hostile neighbour which might intervene in the electoral process through suspicious activity by using malicious software to hack the whole system and tamper the election count.
A system breakdown may cause an unprecedented social unrest and loss of confidence among the voters and the opposition parties.
Without conducting a full-scale pilot-test, a great deal of technical breaches can collapse the system and the electoral process. The government should ensure that all the EVMs remain functional without any technical faults by hiring both national and foreign experts to make the process transparent.
Also, the procedure through which overseas Pakistanis will vote should be pilot-tested as well to ascertain the efficacy and security of EVMs. To uphold democracy, the proper use of EVMs with absolute accuracy and effective e-voting system for overseas Pakistanis is, indeed, a test for the authorities to prove the benefits attached to these bills which the ruling party had been supporting long before it even came to power.
Farah Naz Burki
Published in Dawn, December 1st, 2021