A week after empowering the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to use the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), the government on Wednesday gave the media a practical demonstration of the gadget at the Parliament House. The demonstration was led by Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Dr Babar Awan, Senator Faisal Javed and Commission on Science and Technology for Sustainable Development in the South (COMSATS) representative Nasir Malik. Talking to media, Fawad said initially the demonstration was given to the Parliamentary reporters, while the members of National Press Club and Bar Associations would also be briefed on the working of EVMs in due course of time. He said opposition parties would also be sensitized about the functioning of EVMs and their feedback would be welcomed in that regard, he added. Fawad Chaudhry said a prototype of EVM had been installed at the Parliament House so that all the legislators could get themselves acquainted with the machine, urging the parliamentarians to give their valuable suggestions for its further improvement. He said the ECP had given 36 conditions for the EVM when its manufacturing process was initiated a few years back to meet its criteria. “I am proud of our scientists, engineers and institutions that all the 36 conditions have been fully met and incorporated in functioning of the EVMs,” the minister said, adding “An EVM is as easy [in use] as a mobile phone.” He said the EVMs would help ensure transparency and compile election results on a fast-track basis as the delay in vote count always cast doubt on its authenticity. Fawad said it was habit of some political parties to level allegation of rigging after being defeated in the elections which was also evident from the recent by-polls held in various constituencies including Karachi’s (NA-249) where both the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and People’s Party questioned its transparency. “The biggest issue is that the elections’ result take time after completion of polling, but this machine will help produce the result within [some] minutes,” he maintained. He again invited the opposition parties to come forward and play their due role in finalizing the electoral reforms for which the government had been striving since it came into power. Leading the practical demonstration, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Dr Babar Awan said the EVM was such a model through which a neighboring country, which was five-time bigger than Pakistan, had made its election process ‘acceptable’ to all. He said it was unfortunate that in Pakistan the defeat facing parties continued to level the rigging allegations that should come to an end. “We are standing in a phase where the general elections are due in around two-and-a-quarter years. To meet this challenge, the PTI government, on the directives of Prime Minister Imran Khan, has further empowered the ECP through necessary legislation,” he said. He said basically, there were five EVMs of different types, out of which two were imported and three others being worked out at different places in Pakistan. “All EVMs will also be finalized by the ECP.” He said that the NA-249 election’s results were not accepted by the candidates and political parties due to the old system. Talking to media about the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), he was of the view that existing election system has been suffering from an acute cancer disease since 1977 which would only be curable through adoption of new technologies like ‘Electronic Voting Machine’, adding that it would ensure fair and transparent polling results. He said ,’We invite opposition parties including Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) leader, Shahbaz Sharif and Pakistan Peoples Party leader, Yousuf Raza Gilani to come forward and see the model which would bring reforms in election system’ in the country. He informed that overseas Pakistanis living abroad are happy to get an opportunity to cast their votes in elections. A COMSTS expert briefed the media about use of the EVM, of which prototype model had been placed in the Parliament House. He said there were two steps of casting a vote through this gadget including verification of voters by CNIC number or thumb impression to ensure validity, after which a voter would go to a specified area and select a candidate of his choice by pressing a button. Following which, he said a record would be maintained automatically at the back-end and a print of his vote would also come out and drop in the ballot box. “The whole process would take 30 seconds.” Later, the expert gave a demonstration by casting his vote through the EVM. He said soon after the completion of the voting process, the presiding officer would press a button and get a print out of the overall result. Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the voting and result record would be maintained in both electronic and print methods, adding a printed ballot would drop in the box automatically in front of the voter. “Now, there will be two – records electronic and paper, ending any chance of manipulating the record and results. “ Answering a question, he said internet connection was not needed to operate the EVMs, adding presiding officers would communicate the election results of their respective polling stations using different means like Whatsapp to the authorities concerned. He elaborated that the relevant voter-list, as per National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) record, of a polling station would be fed in EVMs installed there, so there would be no need of internet connectivity. “The battery-run EVM is not the internet based gadget. It is a 100 percent stand alone machine, even though these are not interconnected.” As regards training of the presiding officers, the minister said all those who were using mobile phones could operate the EVM. “It is as easy [in use] as a mobile phone. The EVM has its own batter and does not need any instant electricity connection.” Currently, he said, around 20 countries the EVMs were being used in an efficient manner, even some countries had switched over to the internet-based election process and people were not needed to visit any polling station. “Technological advancements are taking place at a fast pace. These EVMs are for elections 2023, while for the 2027 polls there will be more advanced gadgets.” He said there would be no extra financial burden on the ECP in introduction of the EVMs. To another question, the Information Minister said the government had suggested 49 amendments in the Election Act to ensure transparency, and asked the opposition parties to come forward and play a role in finalizing the electoral reforms. Dr Babar Awan said an EVM would be available at each polling booth, while there would also be standby machines for use, if needed. Representatives of Parliamentary Reporters Association (PRA),on its request, were also assured to provide the EVM facility for the body’s upcoming election.