So finally, all the speculation ended with the PTI government taking the leap of faith they needed to take and getting the overseas Pakistanis voting rights via a joint sitting of parliament. There were all kinds of disinformation flying around with many anchors simply skeptical about PTI’s capability of getting the bills through. Some even went to the extent of predicting a sequence of events beginning with the inability of the PTI government to get the bill passed, culminating finally with the dismissal of the PTI government. The PTI government on Wednesday deferred voting on a bill related to the introduction of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the electoral process, noting that the Opposition wanted to discuss the matter before voting on the matter.
However, all the speculation and doomsday predictions died a natural death as PTI had no trouble in getting the bills passed in the joint session of parliament. But all the political spin aside, the general public is rather bewildered at the attitude of lawmakers to consider with open heart two bills about which the public hardly has any difference of opinion.
Firstly, the matter of overseas Pakistanis voting rights
This is hardly a new issue. This has been simmering on the back burner for a long time and the masses hardly have any difference of opinion in this regard. If one takes a look at the world, every country that has the capacity has ensured that all its citizens get a chance to vote in their national election. It’s a total consensus in this regard except in case of lack of facility. In fact, it’s one of the major components of democracy. Just go back a few years and as far as lip servicing is concerned Pakistan also used to have a consensus about it. What has changed? Why do so many parties representing Pakistanis want to disenfranchise a significant number of people from voting rights?
It’s no mystery really. Rightly or wrongly, PTI supporters claim due to better insight into democratic practices and having blinders off from their eyes while the opposition claims that due to their lack of connection with Pakistan & not being impacted by the heavy inflation the overseas Pakistanis overwhelmingly support PTI. This support has crystallized into more solidity after 2018 as Imran Khan proved his sincerity to Pakistan time and again so much so that it balanced out positively the incompetence and slowness of the PTI government. The opposition is rightfully frustrated that despite their hue and cry about on-the-ground inflation which is a reality, PTI support abroad has only increased rather than decreased.
The reasons for that are multifold but the fact remains that in western countries PTI is supported by an overwhelming sweeping majority while in monarchies and dictatorial regimes they are a simple majority. Surprising enough but reasonable when we consider that none of the Pakistani political parties has any norm of democratic practices in them they have decided to simply give up on the overseas Pakistani and simply oppose giving them the voting rights tooth and nail. It’s illogical, it’s against the democratic practice, it’s against the interest of Pakistan, so many negative factors are there but Pakistani political parties know their audience, knows that they can say anything and some of their voters will swallow it as the truth as they lack enough exposure and information to understand the reality.
The number of votes estimated & their distribution in constituencies, knowing that voter turnout will be extremely high the opposition realizes the horrifying fact that almost 25 national assembly seats will swing if PTI gets 70 % of the votes polled. The unpalatable fact for them is that in most of the countries PTI has an 80 % plus supporter level and that’s being modest. Opposition attitude changed when Imran Khan got an unprecedented Rockstar-like reception in the USA where people from all states and even from surrounding countries came spending their own money to get a glimpse of what they believe is the last hope of Pakistan Imran Khan. That was the moment of truth for the opposition parties. They still could have campaigned politically to woo the voters but they chose to demonize them, criticize them, demean them, humiliate them, block them thus closing this chapter of support for them forever.
Can electronic voting systems help us against a corrupt system?
Electronic voting machine, a glorified calculator represents the death knell for the opposition parties. They know that if they can’t block it, the 2023 election is gone for them. It’s not only that. There is a methodical corruption system of robbing elections. All constituencies have at least 20000 fake votes, dead people voting, double voting, multiple voting, so much so that it’s a science. In a close election, the people who understand the science of manipulating elections win the election. The EVM gives Pakistan a double-check system that will almost kill polling day fake voting.
The results will be catastrophic for some electable who have depended on fake voter list manipulation to get them through. The objections dished out for EVM can be negotiated and removed. Some of the objections are laughable with no clarity about power source, security, no hacking (you can’t hack something which does not have internet), even ability to produce that many machines and so on. If Pakistan has to have an election that is accepted by everyone they have to have an EVM calculating machine that creates a double check system. Let me record it for posterity.
Pakistan will have EVM, whatever type, whatever kind it may be with whatever modification that is done to take care of the objection to have a free and fair election. That will be the first step that will take care of election day rigging and then we have to look and resolve pre-election rigging. Nothing is impossible but political will is needed but may I remind the nation with much despair that politicians always have flexibility but criminals never do.
The author has worked for Unilever for 25 years. He is a professional translator/interpreter of five languages and is also a certified computer trainer. He is currently living in Virginia, USA. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.