Pakistan’s electoral history has been a tale of challenges and aspirations, with each election cycle presenting an opportunity for progress. With the recent General Election on February 8, 2024, Pakistan finds itself at a critical juncture, poised to embrace the transformative potential of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in its quest for transparent and efficient elections.
Manual voting systems in Pakistan have long been associated with exorbitant costs and logistical challenges. The extensive use of paper ballots incurs substantial expenses in printing, transportation, and storage, straining the already limited resources of the state. Moreover, the reliance on manual processes leaves room for human error and manipulation, undermining the credibility and integrity of the electoral outcome. The prevalence of electoral malpractice and violence further compounds the challenges, perpetuating a cycle of distrust and disenchantment among the electorate.
In contrast, electronic voting machines (EVMs) offer a viable solution to the shortcomings of manual voting systems. By digitizing the voting process, EVMs streamline operations, reduce costs, and enhance transparency. The intuitive interface of EVMs makes voting accessible to all citizens, irrespective of their literacy levels or physical abilities. Real-time tabulation of votes ensures swift and accurate results, instilling confidence in the electoral process and promoting public trust. Moreover, the elimination of paper ballots minimizes the environmental impact and contributes to sustainable electoral practices.
The impact of manual elections and rigging issues in Pakistan has reverberated on the international stage, with leading nations and organizations expressing grave concerns over reported irregularities. The United States, United Kingdom, European Union, and Iran have all called for authorities to investigate the alleged irregularities in Pakistan’s elections, emphasizing the importance of upholding democratic norms and principles. The international community’s scrutiny underscores the imperative for Pakistan to address electoral malpractice and enhance transparency in its electoral process. The experiences of neighboring countries such as India and Bangladesh serve as compelling examples of the efficacy of EVMs in enhancing electoral integrity and efficiency. India, as the world’s largest democracy, has successfully deployed EVMs in its electoral process, significantly reducing instances of fraud and malpractice. Similarly, Bangladesh has embraced EVMs as a means of modernizing its electoral framework, signaling a broader trend towards electoral reform in the region. As Pakistan looks to its neighbors for inspiration, the adoption of EVMs emerges as a pragmatic step towards democratization and progress.
Despite the compelling advantages of EVMs, their adoption in Pakistan faces resistance from entrenched political interests and economic constraints. Former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s advocacy for EVMs in 2021 was met with opposition from the opposition, highlighting the challenges of consensus-building in the political sphere. Moreover, as an underdeveloped nation grappling with economic challenges, Pakistan must carefully consider the financial implications of procuring EVMs. However, the long-term benefits of electoral modernization far outweigh the initial investment, making it a worthy endeavor for the future of democracy in Pakistan.
To wrap things up, the transition from manual to electronic voting systems represents a paradigm shift in Pakistan’s electoral landscape. By embracing the transformative potential of EVMs, Pakistan can pave the way for transparent, efficient, and inclusive elections that reflect the will of the people. As the nation navigates the complexities of its democratic journey, the adoption of EVMs stands as a testament to its commitment to progress and accountability. With concerted efforts and political will, Pakistan can realize its vision of a vibrant and inclusive democracy that upholds the principles of transparency, fairness, and integrity.
Ali Gul Leghari
The writer is a teacher and writer. He is a member of PFUC Pakistan. He can be reached at @AliGulLeghari1