ISLAMABAD, Nov 20 (APP): Former Secretary-General of Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) Sarwar Bari on Saturday said the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) would help ensure transparency in the polls to great extent and end the involvement of Polling Officers (POs) by 99 percent.
“About 99 percent involvement of POs in the election process after the introduction of EVMs will come to an end and the chances of rigging will be eliminated to great extent as compared to the old election process,” he said while addressing a news conference here.
He said the EVMs would minimize the role of humans in the election process as now “it will be done through the machines.” He said the use of EVMs was a part of the strategic plan 2019-23 of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) but no development had been made in that regard.
He said it was a commitment of the ECP to use EVMs, start a biometric system and give the right of vote to overseas Pakistanis through internet voting.
As per the FAFEN reports, he said hundreds of thousands of irregularities were committed in the past elections, expressing confidence that there was a zero percent chance of any vote rejection after the introduction of the EVMs.
“As per the plan, it was agreed by the ECP that EVMs will be utilized again and again as a pilot project but it was unfortunate that the exercise was the ECP done it once only,” he regretted.
Now, he said a bill related to the use of EVMs had also been passed by the Parliament and this technology would be used in the upcoming general elections. “This is the matter of rule of law, so I fully support it.” He was of the view the ECP should start work on efficient use of EVMs in the next polls instantly without any further delay as the manufacturers had assured to ready the required machines before the 2023 elections.
Sarwar Bari said free elections meant that every registered voter of the country must be allowed to choose their candidates and exercise voting rights with his/her free will in a conducive atmosphere. He recalled that after the 2013 elections, protests were started in the country as form 14 was not given to contesting candidates after the vote count ended at polling stations. He claimed that the 2013 elections were rigged as turnout in various polling stations particularly in Ayaz Sadiq’s constituency was more than 100 percent.
He said that Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz registered 14 cases against FAFEN for exposing rigging in elections in various parts of the country. Sarwar Bari said he took a stand on the issue but the FAFEN management tendered an apology to the then caretaker chief minister Najam Sethi.
He said he had witnessed some form 14 in which counting were mentioned wrong and the number of votes was written on blank papers. He said without intimating, the ECP had changed the numbers of polling stations and in some cases, polling booths were merged.
He also questioned Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability (TDEA) for spending funds on ECP officials and their families, adding the TDEA without the approval of the board had spent funds on traveling and accommodation of ECP officials and family members.
Sarwar Bari said as a result of an investigation into the 2013 elections, it had come to the FAFEN’s notice that the TDEA committed forgery in the forms of a number of constituencies.
He said that TDEA had taken the FAFEN to the verge of collapse, as anticipated reports were prepared to change the FAFEN reports. He said that experts and researchers had also tendered their resignations because of it.
He also quoted a statement of a former IT Director TDEA, in which he said that in the 2013 general election, the TDEA executive director had prepared data for which form 14 of 266 constituencies of polling stations were obtained from the Election Commission and prepared fake reports on fictitious figures. He also questioned the current role of the TDEA and stressed the need to make it neutral. He also stressed the need to separate FAFEN from the TDEA.