Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday received an in depth presentation and an indication of a replacement locally-made electronic mechanical device (EVM).
Talking to Dawn after the briefing held at the Prime Minister House, federal Minister for Science and Technology Shibli Faraz said the new machine had been manufactured using indigenous resources and consistent with the specifications of the committee of Pakistan (ECP).
Mr Faraz said that the machine had been developed keeping in mind the bottom realities and in accordance with the specifications of the ECP, which had previously rejected the utilization of EVMs on technical grounds.
According to the minister, the new EVM was simple and user-friendly for voters also because the polling staff and it might eliminate chances of rigging because it couldn’t be bugged or hacked because it would haven’t any OS and wouldn’t be connected to internet. Moreover, he said, the new EVM would also provide complete data of the polled votes for an audit just in case of an election dispute.
The minister said that he would soon brief opposition parties and members of the parliament on the newly developed EVM and expressed the hope that after his briefing, most of the opposition’s concerns would be removed. He said the ministry would soon arrange an appointment for the media and therefore the ECP officials where a practical demonstration of the machine would tend .
Mr Faraz praised the team of engineers and other experts and officials of his ministry for accomplishing the task within the stipulated time, saying that the prime minister had asked them to develop the machine in 12 weeks.
Giving a background, he said the ECP had rejected the thought of using EVMs after they got a presentation on a machine that had been developed back in 2014. He said the previous machine was only fulfilling only 20 per cent of the specified specifications of the ECP whereas the new machine was 98 per cent accurate in line with the ECP specifications.
The machines are being developed using indigenous technologies at half the value of imported devices by National University for Science and Technology, Comsats and National Institute of Engineering (NIE) — the three establishments under the Ministry of Science and Technology. The three institutions have the capacity to manufacture 2,000 machines, costing an estimated Rs65,000 each, which was half the worth of imported devices that offered no guarantees of working properly.
Mr Faraz during a recent press conference had stated a special paper would be used on which the ink wouldn’t fade or dull for five years.
“Counting of votes would be a push of a button away and will be completed between half-hour to at least one hour,” he said.
In a related development, National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) Chairman Tariq Malik gave an appointment to President Dr Arif Alvi on the utilization of technology to permit overseas Pakistanis to cast their votes through i-voting while staying at the countries of their residence.
The meeting was also attended by Railways Minister Azam Swati and secretary of the Ministry of data Technology Muhammad Sohail Rajput.
The Nadra chairman during a gathering of the sub-committee of the cupboard on EVMs chaired by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan on Wednesday had proposed a big change within the i-voting system to empower and enable voters to verify their votes included within the final count.
“Elections aren’t free and fair unless they’re verifiable,” he had reportedly stated while briefing the subcommittee. The Nadra chief said he had also briefed the ECP on the new system, adding that the commission gave a sign that the work would be assigned to Nadra.
The ruling PTI had been pursuing the difficulty of the utilization of EVMs and enabling the overseas to cast their votes since the 2013 general elections. The PTI members within the parliamentary committee on electoral reforms, under then minister of finance Ishaq Dar, had raised the problems on multiple occasions.