AT a time when all political parties claim to be championing the cause of neutral and strong institutions, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has come under scathing attack for expressing its views on an issue that strictly falls within its mandate and responsibility.
The Government is entitled to its opinion on the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in the next general election but it cannot and should not try to impose its will in an authoritarian manner when all political parties, the ECP and more so the people of Pakistan have stakes in the matter as the issue involves credibility of the elections, an exercise which is sole responsibility of the Commission.
The idea of the Government to prevent voting fraud is laudable but the plan proposed and the method being used to achieve the goal is questionable.
If the intention is to guard against vote rigging then what is the use of adoption of a system that has become controversial even before its introduction.
The ECP is well within its mandate to point out flaws in the proposed system and with this in view the remarks made by Federal Minister Azam Swati, who wanted to ‘set such institutions on fire’ and those of some other cabinet members are highly irresponsible and derogatory.
Sikandar Sultan Raja was picked up for appointment as Chief Election Commissioner through consensus by the parliamentary committee having equal representation from the treasury and the opposition benches because of his track record as an honest and upright officer.
It is unjust to point accusing fingers towards him just because the ECP is not toeing a particular line and is expressing its views candidly on the issue of EVMs.
The Commission has raised valid questions, which are also agitating the minds of the general public, and it is the duty of the Government to come out with satisfactory responses and solutions.
Instead, it has chosen to silence the dissent through pressure tactics, propaganda and brute majority in the joint session, forgetting that the ECP has serious reservations and the Senate Standing Committee concerned has rejected the piece of legislation on the issue after getting input from the Commission and experts.
Why to scandalize the ECP when other relevant bodies like FAFEN too have similar views and want the issue to be resolved through consensus for the sake of credibility of the future elections?