Govt rejects protests by ECP to voting machines

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ISLAMABAD: The govt on Wednesday rejected the objections raised by the committee of Pakistan (ECP) to the electronic voting machines and expressed the resolve to travel ahead with their use within the next general elections to make sure uncontroversial electoral exercise.

The legislative process for machine introduction and for overseas Pakistanis’ right to vote would be completed this month and everybody would be sure to obey the law once it’s enacted, announced federal Minister for Science and Technology Shibli Faraz at a news conference.

The minister invited all political parties to urge the error-free machines, developed by his ministry, examined by their technical experts.

About the 37 objections raised by the ECP, Mr. Faraz said 27 of them weren’t about the machines but associated with ECP’s own capacity, whereas the machine developed by his ministry had already addressed the remaining 10 objections.

“It’s an idea and not a mere machine,” he said, adding it had been bad news for the established order forces which are against the holding of free, fair, transparent, and credible elections.

The minister said all elections within the past were controversial and marred by the utilization of cash and intimidation as tools to influence the results. Also, fake ballot papers had been printed within the past, he added.

The PTI leader said Imran Khan, who had introduced the concept of neutral umpires within the cricket world, wanted that voting machines to be introduced within the country to make the sure holding of transparent elections. He also mentioned a Supreme Court judgment on the introduction of technology in elections.

Production, testing, training

While dispelling the impression about time scarcity, he said two years were enough for machines production, procurement, and testing besides imparting technical training for his or her operation.

Answering an issue, the minister was of the opinion that around 400,000 machines would be required for subsequent general elections and said their production could be complete within six months if every day 2,000 machines were manufactured.

He called the figure of Rs150 billion being cited as estimated expenditure to be incurred on the purchase of machines exaggerated.

He told the media that the ECP admitted its objections weren’t against the precise machine and formed a technical committee after the ministry gave an indication on the operation of voting machines to the commission on August 17.

The technical committee met for the primary time on Wednesday, the minister said, adding that it might be a milestone in electoral history to use technology for holding of general elections.

He said the machines didn’t require electricity, as their battery life was 24 hours. they might be placed in areas with temperature below melting point .

All objections will vanish: Babar

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Dr Babar Awan earlier briefed a Senate panel over the objections raised by the ECP to the plan of using voting machines in next general elections.

The adviser asserted that each one objections would vanish when a law was passed in accordance with the Constitution. “No institution [ECP] is over and above the Constitution,” he remarked at the meeting of the Senate committee on parliamentary affairs. The panel met to debate two bills seeking to amend the elections act for introduction of voting machines and I-voting right for overseas Pakistanis.

Mr Awan said it had been ECP’s job to pick and procure machines and declared that the govt would “neither propose” nor procure or choose a machine.

The committee deferred its plan for voting on the 2 bills, because an issue over the change of committee’s composition by the Senate chairman tilting balance in favour of the ruling coalition consumed most of the time.

The adviser explained that under Rule 173 of the principles of procedure and conduct of business within the Senate, no senator could become member of quite five committees of the House. He said Samina Mumtaz of the Balochistan Awami Party was already a member of 5 committees when she was appointed as member of the Senate committee on parliamentary affairs.

However, he added, swapping could happen under the principles . He further argued that the House through a motion had been authorised to vary the composition of the committees as and when he deems fit.

Law Minister Barrister Farogh Naseem then added: “Maybe it had been not correct on day one, but now Samina Mumtaz is member of just five committees.”

Senator Farooq Naek said the very intent of the appointment just before voting process was mala fide.

Senator Azam Nazir Tarar of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz said it had been unfortunate that the committee worked hard for 2 months before the woman joined it just to favour the bills.

Barrister Nasim said malice was irrelevant if there was something lawful.

Barrister Ali Zafar of the PTI said right or wrong, it had been a choice of the House that would not be overruled by a committee. He said albeit there was no motion, the chairman could take a choice on issues where the law was silent under Rule 264. He said a committee couldn’t question such a choice .

PTI Senator Waleed Iqbal proposing a ‘safe passage’ to the committee chairman asked him to invoke Rule 201 that read “If any doubt arises on any point of procedure or interpretation of those rules during this Chapter, the Chairman of the Committee may refer the purpose to the Chairman of the Senate, whose decision shall be final”.

He said if objections raised over a specific point had been conveyed to the Senate chairman and he had not recalled his orders, the order prevailed and held the sector .

While mentioning that voting machines were the sole way forward, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan argued that no law repugnant to the Constitution would be framed.

Chairman of the Senate committee Senator Taj Haider at the fag end of the proceedings for a 3rd consecutive day said he had not lost hope and would still make efforts for reconciliation. He announced that the committee would meet again on Friday (September 10).

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