PAKISTAN’S electoral history has been a tale of challenges and aspirations, with each election cycle presenting an opportunity for progress. With the latest electoral exercise now behind us, we find ourselves trapped amid claims and counterclaims, allegations and counter-allegations regarding electoral rigging. The debate over the pros and cons of embracing the transformative potential of electronic voting machines (EVMs) needs to start now if we hope to have them in place by the time the country goes to the polls again five years later.

The manual voting system in Pakistan has long been associated with exorbitant costs and logistical challenges. The extensive use of paper ballots incurs substantial expenses in printing, transportation and storage, straining the already limited resources of the state. Moreover, the reliance on manual processes leaves room for human error and manipulation, undermining the credibility and integrity of the electoral outcome. The prevalence of electoral malpractice and violence further compounds the challenges, perpetuating a cycle of distrust and disenchantment among the electorate.

In contrast, EVMs offer a viable solution to the shortcomings of manual voting system. By digitising the voting process, EVMs streamline operations, reduce costs, and enhance transparency. The intuitive interface of EVMs makes voting accessible to all citizens, irrespective of their literacy levels or physical abilities. Real-time tabulation of votes ensures swift and accurate results, instilling confidence in the electoral process and promoting public trust. Besides, elimination of paper ballots minimises the environmental impact and contributes to sustainable electoral practices.

The experiences of India and Bangladesh serve as compelling examples of the efficacy of EVMs in enhancing electoral integrity and efficiency. India has succe- ssfully deployed EVMs in its electoral process, significantly reducing instances of fraud and malpractice. Similarly, Bangladesh has embraced EVMs as a means of modernising its electoral framework, signalling a broader trend towards electoral reforms in the region. The adoption of EVMs has emerged as a pragmatic step towards democratisation and progress.

Despite the compelling advantages of EVMs, their adoption in Pakistan faces resistance from entrenched political interests and economic constraints. As a nation grappling with economic challenges, Pakistan must carefully consider the financial implications of procuring EVMs. However, the long-term benefits related to electoral modernisation outweigh the initial investment, making it a worthy endeavour for the future of democracy in the country.

The transition from manual to electronic voting system will represent a paradigm shift in Pakistan’s electoral landscape. By embracing the transformative potential of EVMs, Pakistan can pave the way for transparent, efficient and inclusive polls that may reflect the will of the people.

As the nation navigates the complexities of its democratic journey, the adoption of EVMs will underline its commitment to progress and accountability. With concerted efforts and a political will, Pakistan can realise its vision of a vibrant and inclusive democracy that not only upholds the principles of transparency, but also ensures fairness and integrity.

Ali Gul Leghari
Johi

Published in Dawn, March 1st, 2024

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