Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Thursday the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) could address all the election-related issues in Pakistan, recalling that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and a judicial commission had recommended their use in the past.
Addressing the launching ceremony of a portal for overseas Pakistanis to digitally apply and verify their powers of attorney, Imran said that legislation on the EVMs was made possible after the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) made the use of technology in elections easier.
The prime minister’s speech came a day after the government succeeded in passing several bills in a joint sitting of parliament, including those paving the way for holding the next general elections through the EVMs and allowing the Pakistanis living abroad to cast their votes in the 2023 polls.
The prime minister said that technology had changed the world altogether and not using it in this era was nothing but a folly. “The EVMs are functional across the world and these can also address all of the election-related issues in Pakistan,” Imran said.
“Around 1.5 million votes were rejected in last elections, which could have been saved if the EVMs were used,” he pointed out. “The EVMs will also help do away with the practices of fake votes,” he said, adding that the ECP in 2008 and a judicial commission in 2015 had recommended the use of EVMs.
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The prime minister highly praised the 9 million overseas Pakistanis for their contribution to support the national economy by sending $30 billion in remittances. He said that voting right to the overseas Pakistanis would enable them to keep a check on the governments.
“Every government will be compelled to value the overseas Pakistanis because [now] they [the Pakistan expatriates] can vote [in the elections]. When they will vote, they will elect a government, which will ease their lives,” the prime minister said.
He added that in a democracy, voters keep check on their governments through their votes. “As the overseas Pakistanis were around 9 million in number, the governments will be forced to value them duly,” Imran told the audience.
The prime minister viewed that the country would not have required any International Monetary Fund (IMF) facility or loan, had it properly tapped the potential of overseas Pakistanis. “But unfortunately, we never considered them an asset rather made their lives more difficult,” he remarked.
“Owing to corrupt system and practices, the overseas Pakistanis have to face losses or lose their properties to illegal occupation,” he said. “The real potential of expatriates is their investment but the country never valued them and provided them required ease.”
“Now, the PTI [Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf] government has granted voting right to the expatriates,” he continued, reiterating his government’s resolve to bring more ease in the lives of the overseas Pakistan, who had supported the country in time of distress.
Referring to the opposition’s protest on legislation in joint session of parliament on Wednesday, the prime minister said that “yesterday’s drama” was also meant to prevent the overseas Pakistanis from getting the right to vote.
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He mentioned that the PTI government had called for an open ballot in the Senate election to stop use of money but both the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) opposed it despite the fact that the ruling party had no advantage of the open ballot proposal.
He stressed that those desiring to take advantage of the old system would never let any change to come. He mentioned the resistance the government faced when it tried to automate the working of the Utility Stores and the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to bring transparency.
Dilating on the benefits of technology, he said the government would launch a “track and trace system” next week to ascertain the real figures of production. “Such a system will discourage tax evasion and keep proper check on the major businesses like cement, sugar and cigarettes,” he said.
About the portal, Imran said that the process of developing the portal for digital verification of powers of attorney was initiated after an overseas Pakistani from Greece highlighted the issue. He pointed out that around 75,000 expatriates had to travel to Pakistan every year to verify the powers of attorney.
“This portal will save time and money of the overseas Pakistanis, who will also be able to track the status of their applications,” the prime minister said.
The prime minister pointed out that the PTI government had earlier launched succession certificate facility for the overseas Pakistanis and reiterated his government’s resolve to keep facilitating the expat community.
He said that the foreign ministry had also directed the embassies, particularly in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to facilitate the Pakistani workers, adding that the expats could also directly highlight their issue at the recently launched Foreign Minister’s Portal.
Separately, chairing a meeting of the party’s political committee, Prime Minister Imran Khan directed the senior leadership of the party to gear up for the upcoming local body elections and make preparations in a way that could help the party win the next general elections.
The meeting was attended by federal ministers Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Fawad Chaudhry, Hammad Azhar, Khusro Bakhtiar, Finance Adviser Shaukat Tarin, and Amir Kayani. The meeting discussed the current political situation and administrative matters.
At the outset, the prime minister congratulated the party leadership on the legislation passed in the joint sitting on Wednesday. Speaking about the future goals, Imran pointed to the phased holding of the local body elections at the tehsil and union council levels.
Imran directed the party leaders to organise the campaign for the local body elections. Sources said that the prime minister emphasised that the next goal was to running such a campaign for the LB polls that could prepare the party for the next general election.
He further directed that the party functionaries and organisations across the country should be activated before the local body elections. He emphasised the need for forming teams at the grassroots level, which remained ready for the next general election, besides the LB election campaign.
Imran stressed that provincial chapters of the party in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa be strengthened with the help of provincial governments. He added that the lawmakers who intended to contest the next elections on the PTI tickets should be given preference in development funds and schemes.
According to the sources, the prime minister had already issued instructions regarding inclusion of important personalities in Sindh and Punjab in the party. He also directed the party leadership to keep him informed about the preparations for the LB elections.
The meeting also discussed the issue of inflation and discussed the steps taken to deal with it. The prime minister told the participants that inflation was expected to come down by the end of this year. He also said that the PTI would win the next general election on the basis of its performance.
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