EVMs not designed for LG polls: Shibli | The Express Tribune


ISLAMABAD:

Federal Minister for Science and Technology Shibli Faraz on Saturday said that electronic voting machines (EVMs) were only designed to conduct elections for national and provincial assemblies, not local governments.

The minister’s latest statement has put a dent on Punjab government’s plan of using EVMs in the upcoming local government elections as the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has asked Science Ministry to deliver just over 200,000 machines for the polls in Punjab. However, this appears to be difficult unless machines are imported by relaxing procurement rules.

This statement came in response to ECP’s letter stating that it was ready but the Science Ministry has expressed its “inability” to provide required number of EVMs to ECP for local government elections in the federal capital.

Sources in the ECP revealed that the Science Ministry is yet to provide 50 EVMs out of the previously demanded 3,900 machines for conducting mock exercises to assess their functionality before they are used in the mayoral election in the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT).

Also read: Ready to use EVMs in Punjab LG polls: ECP

“EVMs are only designed for general elections and not for local government elections,” the minister said while talking to The Express Tribune, adding that technical changes and redesigning was required to hold local bodies’ elections via EVMs, which was not possible instantly.

“However, mayor elections in the capital can and will be held through EVMs; that is final,” he added.
Explaining why EVMs could not be used in local government elections, Faraz said that there are multiple panels in the local bodies’ elections and the machines do not yet support multiple panels. In the general elections, he added, only a single panel is required in EVMs even if 200 candidates were contesting from a single constituency.

On the provision of EVMs for mock exercise before delivering 3,900 EVMs, Faraz said that he recently met Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja and shared the timeline for providing EVMs to ECP.

As per the timeline, he said that five EVMs will be delivered to ECP by January 31; 45 more by March 15; another 2,000 by April 10, and the remaining 1,850 would be delivered by April 25 this year.

Also read: EVMs — myths and realities

On the manufacturing of EVMs, the minister said that prototypes were being developed in consultation with M/s RapiDev, a startup company located at NUST Technological Park. The company’s website states that it delivers cutting-edge technology software and telecom solutions to its clients.

Faraz said that switching from prototype to commercial production requires time and fulfillment of certain procedures, including Public Procurement Regulatory Authority’s (PPRA) rules, which are applicable on ministries and departments.

He was of the view that local bodies’ elections could only be held after the cabinet relaxes PPRA rules or gives waiver on importing EVMs just like it did for vaccine imports.

On December 17, 2021, sources in ECP revealed that ECP had informed Science Ministry that it was ready to carry out the complete LG elections in ICT by using EVMs as per the ordinance promulgated on November 23, 2021.

Also read: ECP resists ‘tactics to pressurise it on EVMs’

“However,” the December 17 letter of ECP read, “Ministry of Science & Technology (Most) showed inability to conduct complete LG elections of ICT via EVMs due to short span of time.”

Subsequently, the officials said, the Science Ministry was requested to provide requisite number of EVMs for the mayoral election but that is yet to happen.

“It is requested that in the first place, MoST may provide 50 EVMs out of already demanded 3,900 EVMs on immediate basis, so that ECP may conduct mock exercises to assess EVMs’ functionality before usage in LG mayor elections of ICT,” the letter read.

In addition, ECP has asked the ministry to ensure that the EVM should include option of voting, counting and transmitting (the final results) and recounting of the votes as per requirement of ICT Local Government Ordinance, 2021. As per the Ordinance, the ECP letter states, the ICT LG elections are required to be held on or before May 24, 2022.




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