The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has decided to introduce electronic voting machines in two years and use them in the next polls, due in 2018. As much as the move is lauded there are caveats the size of Imran Khan’s container. Firstly, that there will have to be a lot of money spent. The government has taken demos from ten vendors, and it is up to bureaucratic whim what contractor will be chosen and why. Estimates are that each machine will cost about $300. Around 70,000 polling stations were set up in the last elections and most of them had two booths. The ECP would have to procure at least 150,000 machines. Secondly the implementation requires constitutional amendment. Yet, voting machines in India cost about Rs 9000 (PKR). The price in Pakistan is almost three times this? Is this the best the ECP can do? Thirdly, the ECP has blamed faulty magnetic ink, lack of pens and paper, and all sorts of minor issues in last year’s horror of an election. Put them in a report, and then to add insult to injury, denied all of them and discovered new excuses. What is to stop this sloppy organisation from more scandal, for blaming machine fault or electricity shortage for rigging allegations in 2018?

In the committee that heads the ECP proposal for mechanisation, the PTI refused to be represented. Even though the ECP has proven itself to be a sham, PTI presence would have shown the party willing to listen and move forward. Yet it continues its hard stance, and has purposely made protest its only means of political influence.

New stories and excuses continue to crop up from the ECP. The commission had enlisted the services of ‘experts’ from the ‘private sector’ to print serial numbers of ballot papers made for the 2013 general elections. These were printers from Urdu Bazar and Lakshmi Chowk markets. The Printing Corporation of Pakistan had not been able to print the ballots thus the work was outsourced.

Should these issues not have been transparent at the time of the elections? Does transparency and accountably mean anything to our bureaucracy? Why did political parties accept the election results a year ago? Who is pulling the strings behind this mess? It has taken so long for these “truths” to come out that the ECP has lost all credibility. Pakistan has been having some form of elections since 1947. Or has it?