Amidst criticism of its decision to go ahead with the i-voting process for overseas Pakistanis in the October by-elections, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) held a joint press conference with National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) officials to debunk complaints about the software that will be used to enable overseas Pakistanis to vote.
The ECP's Director General of Public Relations, Nadim Qasim, reiterated in the conference that overseas Pakistani's have the right to vote and that this was an effort that political parties "should admire".
"The ECP is not working with haste," he said, "it is fulfilling its constitutional responsibility."
The ECP will be holding by-elections in 37 constituencies for both national and provincial assembly seats on Oct 14. The Overseas Voting System (www.overseasvoting.gov.pk) has listed the constituencies for voting on the website’s homepage.
After the ECP launched its website for overseas voters on August 31, election observers had voiced skepticism about the system’s "credibility and transparency".
Ahmed Bilal Mehboob of the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (Pildat), an NGO working for the promotion of democracy in the country, had said one of the concerns was that the i-voting system can "easily subjected to cyber attacks or manipulation".
Bilal had also expressed concerns about the requirements for registration for i-voting.
"Firstly, a large number of Pakistanis — especially in the Middle East — would be excluded from the voting process as they will not have an email address." he had said.
"Secondly, there is nothing that can ensure that the person is freely using his right to vote online and not being coerced by someone."
Political parties have also expressed concerns about the i-voting process. PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb said that the i-voting system launched by the ECP was "technologically faulty".
The ECP spokesperson said today that the process of registering overseas voters was ongoing. It began on Sept 1 and will conclude by the 15 of the month. The commission hopes that the maximum number of voters can be registered in the last few days.
An awareness program has also been launched with regards to the issue, for which a video message will be broadcast on state-run Pakistan Television (PTV). Ads will also be printed in newspapers. The ECP official said that they had spoken to the Foreign Minister as well.
"The ECP is doing everything in relation to the awareness program," Qasim said, adding: "The website has reached one million people."
He explained that only National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis (Nicop) and Machine Readable Passport (MRP) holders can be registered for the i-voting process.
After voters register, they will be sent a passcode on their provided email before Oct 14. The passcode will be in use between 8 am and 6 pm, Pakistan Standard Time.
The spokesperson said that i-voting of overseas Pakistani's was a 'pilot project' and a report will be presented to parliament on what the experience was like.