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    No one should try to put us under pressure over EVMs: ECP

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    No one should try to put us under pressure over EVMs: ECP: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) stated on Friday that it had taken various steps regarding electronic voting machines (EVMs) even before the legislation was passed and that it was fully aware of its obligations and no one should try to put it under duress, reported The News on Saturday.

    A spokesperson of the ECP, referring to some media sections, stated that it was wrong to believe that the Commission was ignoring its responsibilities concerning the use of computerized voting machines.

    “In this regard, the Election Commission wants to make it clear that even before the rules of the electronic voting machines, it has been taking various steps regarding the use of technology. Immediately after the related legislation, the Commission formed three committees regarding the technology, which gave a briefing to the Election Commission on their work on December 23, 2021,” he said.

    The Commission maintained that purchasing an electronic voting machine was a technical process that required several stages in addition to international tendering, the most important of which were designing a scope of work for the automation of electoral processes, finalizing general requirement specifications as per PPRA Rules, preparing technical specifications as per international standards, and identifying required functions, features, and business process flow to purchase an electronic voting machine.

    The official stressed the importance of following PPRA rules and international standards when procuring these machines. The statement said that the ECP must also confirm that the machine’s vendor is not specific to that vendor, and third-party testing of the equipment must be undertaken.  This equipment can be used to ensure that elections are free and fair. This technique is used by some people, it stated.

    The ECP spokesperson said that there is a lack of clarity in this area, which leads to such reckless statements, which are equal to misleading the public, civil society, organizations, and the media.

    “In this regard, if anyone needs any kind of explanation, then the doors of the Election Commission are open. None should interfere in the work of the Election Commission and this trend of putting pressure should end. The commission is obliged to discharge its responsibilities and will perform its duties without any pressure,” he said.

    2023 elections to be most expensive in Pakistan’s history with the use of EVMs

    In a report published earlier, it was stated that with an estimated cost of Rs424 billion to make arrangements for electronic voting for 133 million native voters and 10 million overseas voters, the next general elections will likely be the most expensive ballot in the history of Pakistan.

    These are the consolidated estimates that Geo News collected from election regulators, including the ECP, federal and provincial governments, political parties, donors, NGOs, and candidates.

    According to an estimate given by the ECP, the 2023 polls will cost the federal government roughly 1,000 times more than the last three general elections, which totaled Rs28.6 billion. The employment of electronic voting arrangements for domestic and international voters accounts for a significant portion of the expense.

    Moreover, the estimated cost of the upcoming polls is close to the budget allocated for the country’s largest province, Balochistan, for the fiscal year 2021-22, which was Rs584.1 billion.

    It is estimated that nearly Rs47 billion will be spent on transportation, polling exercise, training, printing, remunerations, and security if the ECP goes with the traditional mode of balloting. But nearly Rs230 billion will be spent on EVMs and their related expenses, while overseas voting operations are likely to cost Rs100 billion, say the major stakeholders.

    The ECP will also have to pay Rs17 billion for security arrangements, as around 0.9 million security personnel, including around 20,000 private security guards, will be deployed at polling stations. Nearly 50,000 CCTV cameras will also be installed at polling stations on election day.

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