History: When PPP and PMLN planned to use EVMs
Pakistan needs at least 600,000 Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) to hold general elections, Federal Minister for Science and Technology Shibli Faraz has told SAMAA TV just before a joint session of Parliament was set to vote on the use of EVMs in the next general elections.
Faraz says Pakistan has the capacity to produce one million EVMs in a year and will be able to churn out enough machines before the 2023 general elections.
Although the PTI government introduced an electronic voting machine in July 2021, Pakitan developed its first EVM long before it. The Pakistan Peoples Party, and Pakistan Mulsim League Nawaz, which now oppose the use of EVMs, once planned to use the same machines for holding elections.
The history of EVMs in Pakistan spans over a decade and revolves around various experiments.
First pilot project
The idea was introduced to the country in 2009 when the PPP was in power, and the first pilot project was run during the 2011 local government elections, SAMAA TV's Zaheer Ali Khan reported.
Before the pilot run, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had formed an EVM Committee to review various ideas and EMV designs.
The EVM committee presented its report in 2010 and recommended the use of EVMs on a trial basis in 2011 LG polls.
The first point in the report did say that "the current system of paper balloting has many advantages, including that the system is verifiable and trusted by stakeholders, easy to understand for all, easy to recount, reliable and any fraud is more likely to be localised and on a limited scale."
It said EVMs may solve logistics issues.
After the 2011 LG elections, the work on EVMs continued and in 2014 the National Institute of Electronics developed a machine. This was the first indigenously developed EVM. The machines were tested at the elections of various bar councils.
By-polls in 2017
In 2017, under the PMLN government, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) ran another EVM pilot project experiment when it held by-polls in NA-4 Bajaur.
The ECP website still hosts a video it prepared to guide voters. The video explains the procedure to cost vote. It also shows how an EVM's record is backed up by ballot papers.
However, the results from all those experiments were not satisfactory and, consequently, the 2018 general elections were held using ballot papers.
New technology was introduced at the election though. The Results Transmission System was meant to relay the result quickly. However, its failure prompted rigging allegations from the PMLN and PPP.
PTI picks up the thread
When the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf came to power in July 2018, it didn't pick the thread on EVMs immediately. In 2020, Fawad Chaudhry, who was Federal Minister on Science and Technology at the time, briefed Prime Minister Imran Khan on the EVMs.
Chaudhry returned to the ministry of information soon afterwards but the work on EVMs continued and in July 2021 National Institute of Electronics introduced another model of EVM. This model is essentially no different from the earlier model.
An EVM usually consist of two major parts: A voter identification station that is controller by the presiding officer and a voting station that is placed inside the voting both.
The electronic vote cast using the machine is also recorded on a paper ballot which is collected in a box attached to the voting station.
Read and watch more on how EVM works here.
Minister Shibli Faraz says EVMs would guide Pakistan to a new era and help it get rid of rigging allegations. Speaking to SAMAA TV, he said the government wants to use EVMs for by-polls before the 2023 general elections.
The opposition parties, meanwhile, claim that EVMs have failed in several countries including France and the UK, leading those nations to return to paper ballots.