Expressing its failure to extend the voting facility to overseas Pakistanis, the interim government told the Supreme Court on Wednesday that multiple technical problems hampered efforts to deploy an e-voting mechanism. Interim Minister for Information Technology Dr Sania Nishtar informed the three-member Supreme Court bench, headed by the Chief Justice, that the government was facing several difficulties in deploying an e-voting system for overseas Pakistanis in the May 11 elections and they wanted to seek the court’s guidance regarding this matter. She explained that though National Database Registration Authority (NADRA) had successfully developed software for the e-voting, it would take at least 18 months to test the system and make it error-free.
A source said Nadra chief Tariq Malik had written letters to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis to inform them that his organisation was ready to deploy e-voting facility for overseas Pakistanis. “There is no denying the fact that deployment and installation of e-voting software in host countries is an uphill task and Nadra needs an immediate official nod, including funds amounting to $1.5 million,” said the Nadra official. Any inordinate delay would result in the disenfranchisement of 4.5m Pakistanis living abroad who could otherwise take part in the general election, he added. Under the directives of Supreme Court (SC), Nadra developed a software within the given deadline for overseas registered voters to exercise their right to franchise. A demonstration was also made which was three-member bench of the SC headed by the chief justice.
Overseas Pakistanis are planning agitation against the reluctance of Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to make speedy arrangements to enable more than eight million overseas Pakistanis to vote on May 11 elections. Despite clear orders by the highest judiciary of the land to make speedy arrangements, the ECP has continued to tell the court about a range of hurdles to giving overseas Pakistanis right to vote in the 2013 general election. Since the start of the case overseas Pakistanis had hoped that they would soon hear good news but that has not happened and various groups are in discussion to start protests against the ECP and other government agencies. Many workers of Pakistan People’s Party, Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and especially Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) have plans to take part in election campaign in Pakistan but they have stayed back in the UK till now just in case British Pakistanis are allowed to cast vote on May 11 polls.
Top officials of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the law ministry held a meeting on Tuesday to review e-voting facility for overseas Pakistanis for May 11 polls for which the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) has developed a software. A source told Dawn that those attending the meeting had already reached the conclusion that overseas Pakistanis should not be allowed to cast their vote this year due to what they called ‘incomplete’ arrangements and some legal and diplomatic constraints. The meeting was also attended by Attorney General Irfan Qadir. “It has been decided that another round of talks on the e-voting will be held on Wednesday. It will also be attended by representatives of Finance Ministry, Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis, Foreign Office, Ministry of Information Technology and Nadra,” a senior official of the law ministry said.
Pakistan: ‘Prohibitively expensive’: Election Commission opposes online vote for expatriates | The Express Tribune
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) took an unexpected U-turn when it opposed an online voting system for overseas Pakistanis, terming it expensive, time-consuming, and impracticable. In its report submitted to the Supreme Court on Monday, the ECP contended that facilitating eligible overseas Pakistanis to cast their votes in the upcoming general elections was not advisable.
Quoting the unanimous decision of a committee comprising officials from ECP, NADRA and IT ministry, the commission stated that allowing overseas Pakistanis to vote through an uncertified computer system could be disastrous for the electoral process. The Supreme Court had earlier directed the secretaries of law and justice, information technology, foreign affairs, ministry of oversees Pakistanis and the ECP, as well as the chairman NADRA to undertake coordinated efforts for devising a mechanism which would enable overseas Pakistanis to cast their votes in the coming polls.
In compliance with an order of the Supreme Court, the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) has devised a software to help 4.5 million overseas Pakistanis to cast their votes in the coming general elections. The $1.5 million software will help overseas Pakistanis in 15 countries, including the US, UK, Canada, Saudi Arabia, UAE, France and Australia, to vote at 150 polling stations. However, approval of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be required to prepare required legislation. Nadra chairman Tariq Malik said at a news conference that a detailed briefing would be given to ECP on the software on Monday and if the ECP approved it, a briefing would be arranged for the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court’s insistence on enabling overseas Pakistanis to vote in the May 11 general elections has placed the relevant authorities in a fix. Severely castigated by the court for their inability to devise a workable mechanism, the authorities, including the Election Commission of Pakistan, have deliberated several options but found them all to be flawed. Talking to The Express Tribune, sources in the ECP and the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) said that none of the proposed mechanisms had been tested and even a minor error could sabotage the entire electoral exercise. … In their report submitted before the SC, NADRA’s IT experts said exercising the internet option would compromise electoral rolls severely due to risks, such as hacking, which could not be mitigated within the short time given for polls. In addition to this, they maintained internet voting could not reliably confirm voters’ identities and would also compromise their privacy. “Such confirmation can only be ensured through biometric verification… in its absence the possibility of casting votes against someone else’s identity cannot be ruled out,” the experts added.