The meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Parliamentary Affairs was held on Tuesday in Parliament House.
The meeting was chaired by Senator Taj Haider. Members who attended the meeting included Senator Sania Nishtar, Senator Samina Mumtaz Zehri, Senator Muhammad Azam Khan Swati, Senator Faooq Hamid Naek Senator Syed Ali Zafar, Senator Azam Nazeer Tarar, Senator Afnanullah Khan, Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokar, Senator Walid Iqbal, Senator Prof. Sajid Mir, and senior officers from the Ministry of Law and Justice along with all concerned. The Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs, Ali Muhammad Khan was also present.
In the meeting, the Committee sought views of experts on two Election Amendment Bills that entailed the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in the next General Elections and voting rights for overseas Pakistanis. Those who expressed their views were Mr. Khawar Dilshat Ex-Secretary Election Commission and Mr. Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, President PILDAT. Representatives from FAFEN and Smartmatic Intl. Holding B.V. Pakistan also shared their findings.
Most experts were of the common view that use of EVM in the next elections would be a premature move and issues of transparency and secrecy, which is a fundamental voter right, would be compromised. However it was agreed that gradual and step by step introduction of electronic voting may be helpful. The Minister proposed to continue with existing system only with addition of voter slip reading machine for vote count, which was appreciated by the committee. Experts stressed the need for crucial analysis of the machine to prevent lacuna eyewash. Mr. Robert Dobler, President Smartmatic Intl. Asia Pacific; the company that has manufactures EVM was of the view that the system was being used in 10 different countries and has to-date been a success. He stressed the need for trust in the system to ensure success, but he added to build trust machines need to auditable. Potential for manipulation must be explored.
Taking up the issue of Overseas Pakistanis and their right to vote, experts recommended Postal Ballot. This was because i-Voting has its drawbacks that include hacking and tampering of software. Overall issues of integrity are bound to prevail. Members of the Committee were of the view that numerous corresponding amendments would be crucial to ensure transparency.