After months of wrangling, a parliamentary panel on electoral reforms on Wednesday directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to procure electronic voting machines (EVMs) by September 2016 for experimental use with a view for formal deployment, despite strong reservations from the top electoral body. “ECP will procure EVMs by September this year and use it in any by-polls,” announced Minister for Climate Change Zahid Hamid, who heads an eight member sub-committee of the parliamentary committee on electoral reforms, in Islamabad on Wednesday. “If the experiment is successful, next general elections will be held through electronic voting.”
After the use of ‘magnetic ink’ as a verification method failed during the 2013 general elections, a number of political parties had demanded electoral reforms, including the deployment of EVMs, to minimise rigging. A parliamentary panel has been deliberating deployment of the machine for months now with the ECP even conducting a few experiments in this regard.
But the proposals reviewed by the sub-committee over the past year had failed to convince it. An experiment conducted by the electoral body during a by-election in NA-19 Haripur, had offered discouraging results.
Despite the reservations, Hamid said the committee had on Wednesday decided to grant its principled approval for the ECP to float tenders of procuring EVMs and using them experimentally in by-polls before the end of the year. Should the experiment prove successful, it would pave the way for their deployment in the 2018 general elections.