The ongoing debate on fresh polls

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In the ongoing debate on when and how to hold the next elections in the country, various views and opinions and suggestions are being heard. While the PTI chief is demanding early elections, the Pakistan’s youngest Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who is also the Chairman of the country’s main political party-the PPP- says that a proper code of conduct must be devised before holding the next elections in the wake of existing hateful atmosphere due to ongoing intense political confrontations and calls from the PTI chief to topple government by street powers as also IK’s galore of conspiracies theories that he  coins every day.

One would agree with BBZ’s warming to certain extent that ‘next elections could be bloody if proper code of conduct not devised and agree to by the political parties, before the polls as it seems to be need of the hour. Last year, the KP LG polls were marred by extreme violence’s that took several lives of people’s representatives and the voters at large.

Moreover, the atmosphere right now is more hateful than it was last year during the KP LG polls and one can understand the possible outcome of such a hateful situation during general elections where are stakes are high, which can escalate it beyond imagination.

Meanwhile, another PPP stalwart and Minister for Water Resources Khursheed Shah has been quoted to have opined on Thursday last that the incumbent government is ready for elections to seek a fresh mandate from the masses.

He further elaborated in very clear terms, saying that the PPP did a favour to the nation by becoming part of the coalition government. And if this government is dissolved, it will be a favour to PPP,  which will be grateful for it. He said that PPP has become part of the coalition just to avoid a Sri Lanka-like crisis in Pakistan.

However, he also admitted that it would not be an easy election at all, and tough road is ahead but election is the only way out.

On the other hand,  Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Rana Sanaullah categorically said that the party does not shy away from general elections in the country, but only after what he termed ‘electoral reforms’.

The purpose to say is that political pundits say that a “free and fair pols are the only way forward at this critical juncture. But at the same time, they agree that a code of conduct is also required to avoid violence.

Along with the Code of Conduct, there is one more very important aspect of the next polls and that is the use of Electronic Voting Machines, which have  stirred a lot of discussion since last year when the PTI government succeeded in getting passed the said bill from the Parliament. While the supporter of this system say that EVMs will ensure free and fair polls, the mainstream political parties like the PPP, PML-N and JUI-F think that this system is marked by inherent flaws and without removing those erring aspects, it will be harmful to make it part of the electoral process.

In fact, the PPP, PML-N and  JUI-F went to the extent of calling these EVMs as a ploy by the previous government of IK to rig the next elections.

While PPP leader Sherry Rehman vehemently criticized the EVMs last year, PM Shehbaz Sharif, termed EVMs as ‘evil and vicious. And it remains to be how these three parties which are now part of the coalition parties come to terms with the use of EVMs in next elections.

Meanwhile, reports circulate on media that though the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) wants to utilize the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and I-Voting technology but it will take time to reach that point and hence for the time being, there seem to be no possibility on part of the ECP to incorporate this technology in the general election this year.

On the other hand, some political pundits say that the incumbent government should opt for undoing the related laws of EVMs Act which was amended last November as they are of the view that there are various flaws and drawbacks in this system which must be addressed before deploying the technology for voting.

It may be mentioned here that last year the ECP had also raised serious objections to the use of EVMs and it had sent as many as 37 suggestions to the Parliament to remove the various flaws in this system to make it transparent so that the polls process can be ensured to be free and fair.

One main point raised by the detractors of this system was regarding the training of the staff  which is said to be a lengthy process and also time-consuming. Secondly, it is alleged that EVMs can be easily tempered with and results can be changed accordingly by those at the help of EVMs affairs.

The say that even advanced countries like the Germany and many other European countries did not rely on electronic machines for voting as these are not reliable in working.

Another big issue with regard to EVMs is that it is a costly affair to buy those graduates for a country which is already deep in economic malaise. The cost of EVMs runs in to billions which speaks volume of the finance required for this process of technology shift.

In a nutshell, the EVMs are not a fool-proof process as they can be easily tempered with by making changes to the concerned software in these machines.

Moreover, the economic cost is very high which the country cannot afford at this critical juncture of period.

And last but not the least, the time is not sufficient to provide training to thousands of elections staff on how to make use of these machines. So the best option will be to defer the use of EVMs for the time being, at least for some years.