By Sardar Sikander Shaheen
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has sought funds from the federal government for the procurement of some 800,000 Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) for the general elections, which, according to the electoral body, are expected by October 2023.
In a letter to the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, the commission has demanded the release of funds for the procurement of the EVMs as well as allocation of space for keeping and maintaining these machines.
The ECP has not officially shared its version on the matter.
However, contents of the letter “informally” shared with the media by the ECP officials suggest that the commission needs to take steps in the next 23 months—for introducing EVMs—keeping in view that the general polls are likely by October 2023.
The exact amount of funds the ECP requires from the federal government is not known but sources said that at least 50 billion rupees are required for the procurement of the EVMs (excluding logistical expenses that are also believed to be in billions of rupees).
Earlier on Tuesday, the ECP announced to have formed three committees led by its top officials over EVMs and internet voting (i-voting).
According to ECP, the first committee comprises ECP Secretary Omar Hamid Khan dealing with the scope of the EVMs and i-voting.
The second committee is led by ECP Additional Secretary (Admin) Manzoor Akhtar Malik that deals with finances regarding EVMs and i-voting.
The third committee is led by ECP Director General (Law) Muhammad Arshad regarding implementation of laws on the EVMs and i-voting, and problems being faced in this regard.
On November 17, in a landmark move, the federal government got the Elections Second (Amendment) Bill, 2021 passed by the joint session of the Parliament.
This legislation grants voting right to overseas Pakistanis besides, providing for the introduction of the EVMs in the general elections.
The move has been widely lauded by overseas Pakistanis and public circles in Pakistan.
However, just a day after the passage of the Elections (Second Amendment) Bill 2021 by the Parliament, the secretary ECP said on November 18 that the electoral body was “unsure” whether or not the 2023 general elections would be held on the EVMs.
He disclosed this in the meeting of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Law and Justice chaired by Riaz Fatyana from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
The secretary faced a number of tough questions regarding the efficiency of the EVMs, lack of preparation by the ECP to ensure timely launch of EVMs, issues related to transparency, and related queries.
“There are challenges regarding EVMs. Whether these machines would be used in the general polls—nothing can be said at this point,” the secretary said, adding that three to four more pilot projects related to the EVMs were required to be launched to test the efficiency of these machines.
This article was first published in Business Recorder on Nov 26, 2021.