ISLAMABAD: The government on Monday asked the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to set a timeline for implementation of the latest legislation on the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the next general elections and voting rights to overseas Pakistanis.

“The government wants the Election Commission to set a timeline for implementation of new legislation regarding EVMs and voting rights to overseas Pakistanis,” said Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Dr Babar Awan in a media talk.

He said President Dr Arif Alvi would summon fresh sessions of the Senate and National Assembly on December 20 and 22, respectively, so that the pending legislation could be made.

“We hope that the Election Commission will show seriousness and set timelines for implementation of electoral reforms-related legislation,” he said, adding that EVMs would be purchased by the ECP, and not by the government, so the commission should tell what specification it required in the voting machines.

PM’s adviser says cabinet will approve today a bill to curb sale-purchase of votes in Senate polls

Babar Awan said the ECP should also give a timeline to overseas Pakistanis to get themselves registered as voters so that they could take part in the next general elections in the country.

On November 17, the government managed to bulldoze amendments to the Elections Act 2017 in a joint session of parliament, thereby allowing the use of EVMs and granting voting rights to overseas Pakistanis.

However, before that legislation the ECP had expressed dissatisfaction over the use of EVMs in the next polls. Later, the ECP formed three separate committees to ascertain how the commission could use EVMs in the 2023 general elections by addressing its own concerns.

On the other hand, the opposition is bent upon its stance to block the use of EVMs in the next polls.

Babar Awan said the government planned to further make some important legislation in the current parliamentary year. “The NA will remain proactive for future legislation in the current parliamentary year,” he added.

The PM’s adviser revealed that the federal cabinet in its meeting on Tuesday (today) would approve a government bill aimed at curbing sale and purchase of votes in the Senate elections. He said Prime Minister Imran Khan would be briefed on the legislation during the cabinet meeting, adding that the Parliamentary Affairs Division in collaboration with the ECP was also in the process of making such a legislation.

It has been observed that selling and purchasing of votes has become a common phenomenon in all Senate elections and Prime Minister Imran Khan has vowed to eliminate this culture in his many speeches.

Responding to a question, Babar Awan said the president had already sought opinion from the Supreme Court regarding rechecking of “doubtful” votes in the Senate polls and the apex court had ruled that such votes could be rechecked. “The Supreme Court ordered that a curtain on the [doubtful] votes can be removed,” he added.

The PM’s adviser said the opposition had rolled back its long march plan against the government because of lack of unity and harmony in its ranks. He said the leaders of opposition parties were not on the same page and thus had no agenda of long march, but to save their corruption money. “They [opposition leaders] had failed in the past and they will have the same fate in future as well,” he added.

Published in Dawn, December 14th, 2021

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