PTI, PML-Q still apart on EVM use in local polls

Punjab govt spokesperson says deliberations still going on; Fawad Chaudhry says local bodies law within a few days

Our Correspondent/Imran Adnan December 03, 2021


Despite detailed deliberations, the Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and its major coalition partner, the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid-e-Azam (PML-Q), have failed to reach an agreement overuse of electronic voting machines (EVMs) and the proposed local government system in Punjab.

Sources privy to these developments disclosed on Thursday that though no agreement had been reached between the two allies, but there was no deadlock, as “both sides are in contact and believe that all issues can be sorted out through dialogue”.

Earlier in the day, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry had said that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)’s core committee had given go-ahead for holding the local bodies elections in Punjab through the EVM. However, a source here said that the PML-Q had serious reservations about the EVMs use.

“The party believes that neither the [EVM] system is mature enough nor the voters are trained enough to understand this new electronic voting system,” the sources told The Express Tribune. “The Punjab government is trying to change rules of the game at the eleventh hour in an attempt to further delay the local government elections in the province,” they added.

The source further disclosed that there was also a disagreement between the PML-Q and the PTI over the seats. The PML-Q was of the view that the government was not giving proper representation to them in the rural areas, adding that the PML-Q had already conveyed its reservations to Prime Minister Imran Khan.

However, talking to the media, Punjab government Spokesperson Hasaan Khawar said the government was considering the PML-Q’s suggestions. “Deliberations are still under way over different proposals. Some issues have already been sorted out and others will be resolved through dialogue,” Khawar said.

Provincial Minister for Local Government Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed underscored that the government was introducing appropriate amendments to the Local Government Act in the best public interest. “It has also decided to introduce reserve seats for differently-abled persons in the new local government system besides several other amendments,” he added.

Read ECP rejects govt's 'intimidation to rush EVMs purchase'

Earlier, a meeting of the PTI core committee, chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan in Islamabad, discussed the matters pertaining to the local government elections in Punjab as well as in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Addressing a press conference after the meeting, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said that Punjab Local Government Act would also be approved in the next couple of days to pave the way for local elections in the province.

About the EVMs, Chaudhry said that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was heading in the right direction as it had formed a technical evaluation committee on the matter. “The government will extend full cooperation to the ECP regarding the use of EVMs in the elections,” he added.

Responding to a question, Chaudhry said a new structure of local elections would take place in Punjab, adding that talks in this regard had already been held with the allies. “The government allies have been taken on board. Constructive talks have been held with them on the new structure of local elections.”

“Punjab’s local elections will be held through the EVM,” he said. “The Punjab government has already amended the law in this regard.” He rejected the impression of expensive election. “The cost of election through the EVM will almost be equal to the cost of previous general elections,” he said, adding that the investment in EVMs will be one-time and the election process will become cheaper in the future.”

Read more Allies have ‘concerns’ over EVM bill

Chaudhry said that local elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa would be held in 17 districts on December 19, in which 37,752 candidates would contest. Among them, he added, 689 candidates would be vying for tehsil chairman and mayor.

‘Tired wrestlers’

The minister said that the opposition parties were not ready to remove concerns regarding the EVM. He was also critical of the opposition’s decision of boycotting the in-camera briefing to the Parliamentary Committee on National Security, saying that the opposition were “a bunch of tired wrestlers”.

During the core committee meeting, Chaudhry said, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Poverty Alleviation Sania Nishtar gave a briefing on various social welfare programmes. Besides, he added, the committee also reviewed the inflation situation.

The information minister said that the committee was informed that the Ehsas programme and health card programme were big projects, adding that health card project for Punjab would worth Rs350 billion.

He also said that the PTI government wanted Balochistan and Sindh included in the programme. He revealed that Balochistan had shown willingness to join but Sindh had not shown any inclination towards it yet.

“The role of the Sindh government is anti-people,” the minister lamented. “We believe that free treatment is the right of every Pakistani,” he said, urging the Sindh government to join the programme so that every person could benefit from it, he said.

Also read ECP sends its wish-list to govt for EVM use

About the inflation situation, the minister said that the sensitive price index fell 0.67% and the government was focusing on mitigating the effects of global inflation on Pakistan. “In the days to come, he said, “the inflation situation will get better and the common man will get benefit.”

Commenting on former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s press conference on inflation, Chaudhry blamed the previous Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government for the current inflation. “If the PML-N and the PPP [Pakistan Peoples Party] had better policies, Pakistan would not have to depend on the outside world today.”

He asked Abbasi to sit with the officials of the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) and understand the statistics system. “Most people in the PML-N do not read newspapers; so they do not understand,” the minister told reporters.

He said that Abbasi, being a former prime minister, had left a debt of Rs157 billion. To this day, he added, the country was not able to get out of the policies the previous governments framed and the loans that they have obtained.



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