The ruling PTI that had been riding the horse of its coalition government since it came into power in 2018, were faced with embarrassment following a recent meeting with its allies. The PML-Q, Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) and MQM-P had raised concerns over the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the upcoming General Elections. Prime Minister Imran Khan and his federal cabinet have been on a campaign to get the electronic voting machines (EVMs) installed before the next elections, despite the objections raised by the opposition parties as well as the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). The incumbent government had been so sure of its majority to get the controversial election reforms bill passed that it had called for a joint session of parliament, but only to cancel it within 24 hours of summoning it.
Ahead of the session, the government had convened a meeting with its allies to take them on board. However, the three parties had raised their concerns over the legislation on the use of EVMs to Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Science and Technology Minister Shibli Faraz. Unable to convince them ahead of the parliamentary session, the ruling party haphazardly called the session off. Inadvertently the opposition parties had a field day. Why wouldn’t they. In a democratic country where not only free and fair elections are important, a thriving opposition is also crucial. But it is this opposition that the PM seems least interested to engage with. Let us not forget that while addressing a recently held ceremony, PM Imran had alluded that even shaking hands with Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif would mean that he is forgetting the corruption cases against him. While there is no connection between a gesture as simple as a handshake and anti-graft cases, it is this attitude that is affecting the quorum of the assembly.
Both the opposition parties and the ECP have raised important concerns over the use of EVMs. The fact is that the mechanism isn’t free of rigging and needs years to be implemented all over the country, as seen in India’s case. Instead of taking time at hand to convince the allies to pass the bill before the next joint session, for the sake of democracy the government better use it to reconsider the use of EVMs and more importantly, the concerns raised in the Daska report.