EVM controversy: Tirade against Chief Election Commissioner

Azam Swati came to limelight in October 2018 when family of 5 was arrested on dispute of cow that trespassed Swati’s farm house. He called IG Police who did not attend the call and the matter was reported to Prime Minister who verbally ordered the transfer of IG Islamabad. This small incident is enough to show his mind set in dealing with people. A JIT was formed that declared Swati offender in IG Islamabad case, SC had to intervene and notification was suspended. He is a sitting Senator and Minister for Railways.
Unfortunately majority of our politicians continue to display immaturity in all fields of life, they think themselves above the law and can go to any extent without any fear of law and accountability. In a recent press conference sitting with another loud mouth minister Fawad Chaudhry and SAPM Babar Awan he crossed all the limits of decency when he accused the Election Commissioner of Pakistan of receiving bribes and always rigging polls and added further that such institutions be set ablaze.
Unfortunately most of our legislators are ignorant about the working and powers of various institutions and consider it their right to say anything they want, if this tussle continues it will no more be a secret what could happen during elections. The dispute is on the use of Electric Voting Machine (EVM) which government is adamant to use in coming elections without giving a fair trial. ECP is the sole authority to conduct elections in Pakistan, it is independent no one can dictate them what and how the election is to be conducted. Instead giving demonstration on EVM and inviting objections government wants that everyone should agree on EVM. Since opposition and ECP has rejected on account of many snags, war of words is going on between ECP and ministers. The best course of action should have been to attend to those 37 objections one by one instead ECP is being criticised. There is no ideal situation anywhere in the world. We all know what happened with RTS, there can be action replay. Can it be stopped? Faults can be generated, faults can occur, machines can go out of order, there can be power failure, standby arrangement can develop fault. What is needed is proper discussion and removal of all type of snags to hold free fair and transparent elections, but here emphasis is on criticism on ECP.
Out of 195 countries of the world, EVM has been tried in 34 countries. Out of 34 countries it has been tried only in 8 countries at national level and they also abandoned it, 9 countries restricted its use to local bodies’ elections. Germany used this machine in 2005 but in 2009 the court declared it against the constitution. France rejected it in 2017. In Pakistan literacy rate is very low therefore understandably it will create problems for the voters.EVM that has been discarded by most of the advanced countries of the world if same type of machine is introduced in Pakistan naturally it will draw objections. The ECP has to ensure free and fair elections, how these can be held by ECP when the sitting ministers accuse them of bribe. It is great insult to a constitutional institution. It was after great search that Election Commissioner was selected by the government and opposition; therefore otherwise there is no justification in accusing him. Minister for Railways must apologise for his lose and called for statement made against Chief Election Commissioner, it looks minister is ignorant about the powers of CEC who can disqualify the minister. As it was not enough Fawad Chaudhry also accused Chief Election Commissioner of acting as a mouth piece of small opposition parties and is having connections with Nawaz Sharif. Will the honourable minister tell who appointed him as Chief Election Commissioner? It is very strange that Prime Minister Imran Khan is quite on this tirade between CEC and his ministers. He should have called the minister and advised him not to use foul language against Chief Election Commissioner; it was certainly in a bad taste.It is indeed a sensitive issue where the major stake holders hold different views. The major objection by ECP has lot of weight when they say it is not user friendly. In Pakistan every election becomes controversial therefore a fool proof system is needed to satisfy all the stake holders. Since it is the sole authority and responsibility of the ECP to conduct elections therefore their satisfaction is must and government cannot thrust its decision arbitrarily neither any one can give dictation. There is a way out to check bogus voting and counting fraud. Following few suggestions are given, if implemented a consensus can be developed.Biggest drawback in the machine is there is no secrecy of ballot because the button shall be pressed in presence of polling officer, candidate may push more than one button, there is no check about number of voters, lastly the ballot paper is very thin like used in ATM machines, it will take days to count that small paper. Procedure is time consuming; in case of malfunction in the machine what precautions can be taken that part is missing.
All ballot papers should have serial numbers and each polling station should start with serial number 01. Secondly before pressing the button the voter has to swoop his CNIC and then it is blocked for next 24 hours, this should be connected with a counter where update data is available. This method will have three checks to ensure there is no bogus voting, the total votes cast can be checked from voters list, serial numbers on ballot paper and thirdly total displayed on counter whenever CNIC is swooped. Let EVM be modified to contain these three conditions. It is hoped that government and ECP shall consider these suggestions.

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