The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has sped up the process of introducing electoral reforms in the country, as President Arif Alvi asked the stakeholders on Thursday to prepare a prototype of the electronic voting machines (EVMs) for the lawmakers.
Simultaneously with the government’s efforts for using new technologies in the next general election, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser has constituted a five-member committee to liaise with the opposition parties for the legislation process.
The directions for preparing a prototype for lawmakers, constitution of a parliamentary committee and the government’s intention to hold talks with the opposition has come on the heels of the federal cabinet’s decision to approve two important ordinances this week.
The ordinances, approved by the cabinet on Tuesday, aimed at enabling the polls supervisory body, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECOP), to introduce the EVMs and take measures to allow the overseas Pakistanis to cast their votes.
Despite a losing streak of the PTI in the by-elections in recent months and the continuous resistance from the opposition parties to the use of the EVMs, Alvi has directed for engaging all the parties to garner their support for the use of the machines in the next general elections.
Alvi chaired a meeting of the subcommittee on emerging technologies on i-voting at the Aiwan-e-Sadr. He asked the relevant stakeholders to prepare a prototype of the EVMs for presentation to the federal cabinet and members of the National Assembly after Eidul Fitr.
The meeting was attended by IT Minister Amin-ul-Haque, Railways Minister Azam Swati, Science and Technology Minister Shibli Faraz, IT Secretary Shoaib Siddiqui, acting NADRA Chairman Brig (retd) Khalif Latif, ECP’s Director General IT Khizer Aziz and senior government officials.
Alvi underlined the need for expediting the i-voting process for overseas Pakistanis. He said that he would engage parliamentarians and members of other political parties for getting their support for the introduction of the EVMs in the upcoming general elections.
President Alvi said that modern voting solutions, such as i-voting and the EVMs, would increase accessibility, speed up the processing of results on the polling day and ensure transparency in the general elections.
During the meeting, Science and Technology Minister Shibli Faraz updated the participants about the progress made so far on developing the EVM prototype. Faraz also expressed the desire to consult the chief election commissioner (CEC) and the ECP members for an early materialisation of the EVMs, biometric verification machines and i-voting systems for the overseas Pakistanis.
On Tuesday, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, while speaking at the post-cabinet meeting press briefing, revealed that the government’s electoral reforms consisted of four parts – the use of EVMs, introduction of e-voting for the overseas Pakistanis, biometric verification and legislation.
“The EVMs have been developed in the country and the government has unveiled its legislative agenda for the purpose, while work is under way on biometric and e-voting mechanism,” Chaudhry had said, referring to two ordinances passed by the federal cabinet.
In Thursday’s meeting at the Presidency, the acting NADRA chairman assured the president that the authority would provide full support to i-voting system.
Meanwhile, Speaker Qaiser constituted a five-member parliamentary committee to contact the opposition parties in the parliament on the electoral reforms. The committee comprises federal ministers Fawad Chaudhry, Pervez Khattak, Asad Umar, Prime Minister’s Adviser Dr Babar Awan and Special Assistant Malik Amir Dogar.
The committee has been constituted in response to Prime Minister Imran’s letter to the Speaker seeking the establishment of an inter-parliamentary body for electoral reform. The speaker said that the five-member committee will hold talks with opposition for “electoral reforms and eradication of corrupt practices” in elections.
“Reforms are needed to hold transparent elections,” Qaiser said, adding the electoral reforms will strengthen parliamentary system.
He said that every effort is being made to implement electoral reforms before the next general election and the committee will play its full role in building consensus among the parliamentary parties.