The National Assembly of Pakistan passed the Elections (Amendment) Bill 2022 on Thursday, which seeks to remove the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in general elections as well as disallows overseas Pakistanis from voting.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Murtaza Javed Abbasi presented the bill that was passed with a majority vote. The bill is expected to be sent to the Senate tomorrow, reports DAWN.
Debate on election bill
Speaking about the legislation, Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar said it was of immense significance.
He recalled the previous PTI government had made multiple amendments to the Election Act, 2017, including those the allowed the use of EVMs and granted overseas Pakistanis the right to vote in general elections.
The PTI government had made the amendments through the Elections (Second Amendment) Bill, 2021, which it had bulldozed through the NA along with 32 other legislations on 17 November, 2021.
Tarar said the bill presented today sought to revive the Elections Act, 2017 in the shape prior to those amendments, which would ensure free, fair, and transparent elections.
Under the new bill, he said, two amendments were being made to Sections 94 and 103 of the Act, both of which pertain the ECP conducting pilot projects for overseas voting and the use of EVMs.
Under the amendment in Section 94 of the Election Act, 2017, the ECP may conduct pilot projects for voting by overseas Pakistanis in bye-elections to ascertain the technical efficacy, secrecy, security, and financial feasibility of such voting and shall share the results with the government, which shall, within 15 days from the commencement of a session of a House after the receipt of the report, lay the same before both Houses of the Parliament.
Under amendment in Section 103 of the Election Act, 2017, the ECP may conduct pilot projects for the utilization of EVMs and biometric verification system in the bye-election
The law minister said the Election Commission of Pakistan had also raised objections to the use of EVMs but clarified that the government was not against the use of technology.
"We only have concerns about the misuse of technology as the Results Transmission System had failed in last general elections to favour a particular political party," he said.
Earlier, Jamaat-i-Islami's Maulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali said that the party had opposed the bill during the previous government's tenure. He added that the opinion of the ECP as well as of political parties should be sought with regards to the bill.
"This bill does not mention the powers of the ECP. It would have been better if the commission was further empowered," he said, reiterating that party heads should be summoned to give their opinion on the bill.