ECP officials walk out of meeting in protest
At least two federal ministers and one advisor have launched a scathing attack on the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for its objection on the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in the next general elections. One of the ministers forced the ECP officials to walk out from a parliamentary committee meeting.
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry claimed that the chief election commissioner was siding with the opposition parties and acting as their “mouthpiece.” He said the ruling PTI had no faith in the election commissioner because he was toeing the line behind the opposition and sympathizing with Nawaz Sharif.
The ECP has reacted to the development by calling an urgent meeting on Monday, September 13.
Fawad Chaudhry, Railways Minister Azam Swati, and PM’s Advisor for Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan held a press conference at the Press Information Department in Islamabad on Friday. Earlier, Swati launched a diatribe against the ECP at a parliamentary committee, forcing the ECP official to leave in protest.
Speaking at the press conference, Chaudhry said the chief election commissioner must resign if he was “so fond of politics.” There would be a reaction if he serves the “smaller parties,” the information minister warned.
Awan said the government would enact laws to complete electoral reforms because the Supreme Court has already passed three judgements on the issue. He claimed that the opposition had “bulldozed” legislation on electoral reforms as it failed to respond to the parliamentary reforms bill introduced in the Senate eight months ago.
The ministers and the advisor announced that the ruling PTI will take EVMs issue to the parliament.
Earlier, Railways Minister Azam Swati raged against the ECP at a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Parliamentary Affairs. He said the ECP was the root of what is destroying democracy in the country and such institutions should be set on fire.
In the meeting, Swati levelled serious allegations of rigging and bribes as well, adding that the ECP should be answerable to the public and parliament.
He said the government has been working on the electronic voting machines for two years but the ECP would not budge.
The ECP officials walked out of the meeting in portest. Later, PML-N’s Maryam Nawaz denounced Swati, saying he had behaved irresponsibly by attacking an institution.
Advisor to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan said that electronic voting was more secure, would maintain secrecy and could be audited easily.
During a talk with the media, Federal Minister for Science and Technology Shibli Faraz said the Election Amendment Act was being discussed in the committee for three days at the expense of the original agenda. “There should be legislation because it is not a matter of numerical achievement,” he said. “If people raised objections we have constitutional rights and we will use them.”
The ECP has reacted sharply to the allegation levelled by the minister. The Chief Election Commissioner has ordered the ECP officials to call an urgent meeting on Monday, September 13, according to a statement.
The special secretary election commission will brief the meeting about the allegations.
The opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) claim the government was throwing tantrums after failing to answer allegations of rigging. It said Swati has been accused of using money in the intraparty election.
The Election Commission of Pakistan is responsible for holding general elections and by-polls in Pakistan. The general elections are held under a transitional government with limited powers. Constitutionally, the ECP is independent.
The ECP has rejected the use of EVMs saying they could neither stop rigging nor ensure that the results would not be delayed.
In a report, it submitted the Senate’s standing committee on parliamentary affairs, the ECP raised 37 objections.
The ECP said the EVMs were “hackable” and prone to be tampered with.
The commission said more time was needed before the implementation of EVMs as the next general election was only two years away.