Expats disappointed e-voting for overseas Pakistanis unachievable for 2018 elections

NADRA, in collaboration with ECP, introduced “i-Vote” in April for expats. (AFP)
Updated 08 June 2018

Expats disappointed e-voting for overseas Pakistanis unachievable for 2018 elections

  • E-vote system to be tested during by-polls
  • Online voting system not ready, says ECP secretary

ISLAMABAD: Some 7.9 million Pakistanis living abroad will not be able to vote in the 2018 general elections following the Supreme Court’s decision on Friday that deployment of an e-voting system in haste would be harmful. 
Expats have expressed disappointment at the decision.
“I feel like I have been stripped of my basic right in determining a leader I would associate my identity to. Being a Pakistani citizen residing aboard and not able to vote does not benefit me or the person I intend to vote for,” said Sonum Asad, speaking to Arab News from the US. 
Mehroz Adil, from the UK, told Arab News: “Every year false promises are made to the nation and nothing is validated. I honestly feel my vote would not make a difference” since “I am not given the right to do so.”
A three-member judicial bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, resuming a court hearing on the viability of electronic voting for Pakistani expats, was told by politician Imran Khan’s lawyer Faisal Chaudhry that implementing an e-voting system was unattainable given the short period of time available. Elections are scheduled for July 25.
Secretary of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Babar Yaqoob Fateh Muhammad told the apex court that an evaluation of the e-voting project by professionals suggested that “more work over the online system is required” and “at the moment” expats cannot be extended the “voting facility.” 
An international feasibility study of the untested voting system had suggested holding trials before giving the public access, the ECP secretary said at an earlier court session attended by Arab News.
Nisar said: “It is correct that this procedure is not possible right now. I tried to provide this facility to the overseas Pakistanis. But it will cause an immense loss at this point.” He added that “the e-voting process can be reviewed during by-polls” but the task force findings on non-implementation of the online voting system is to be made public.
The court had decided to form a task force after hearing experts and lawmakers raise objections and fears about rolling out the country’s first online voting system for overseas Pakistanis in a matter of weeks. 
Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed told Arab News that the suggestion for the task force was his idea. Nisar was commended on the e-voting initiative, but asked the court to approach the matter cautiously.
Nisar had taken the initiative on petitioners' pleas to extend the right to vote to 7.9 million Pakistanis living abroad and ordered NADRA and ECP to devise a system.
NADRA, in collaboration with ECP, introduced “i-Vote” in April for expats. The judges quizzed NADRA on the voting portal’s security. NADRA said that measures against unauthorized access and known threats had been taken but foolproof security could not be guaranteed.
“There is no system that is 100 percent hackproof” said a NADRA official, and told the judges that a third party will need to evaluate and asses the system's fairness, integrity and security. The final product will cost about $1.3 million.
Experts from Pakistan’s three leading universities expressed their views on front-end visuals of the voting portal but were skeptical of the back end of the software, which required examination.
“This is a discredited model,” said Taha Ali from the National University of Science and Technology. “The world has moved away from this (voting model)” and gave examples of similar failed voting systems in the US, France, Germany and other countries.
Pakistan Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf Ali also cautioned the court and said that deliberations had to continue to ensure voter secrecy, stability of the system and ease of implementation.
Anwar Mansoor Khan, one of the main petitioners seeking overseas voting rights, told Arab News: “There are delaying tactics being played. They can implement this. It is not a problem but there is a problem where various politicians don’t want this to be implemented” who don’t have a vote bank abroad.


Lack of coordination will prolong pandemic and cost lives, says UN chief

Updated 38 min 19 sec ago

Lack of coordination will prolong pandemic and cost lives, says UN chief

  • Antonio Guterres said ‘vaccinationalism’ — where rich countries hoard vaccines and the poor get none — is a self-defeating strategy
  • In a video message released as the global death toll reached 2 million, he said ‘COVID-19 cannot be beaten one country at a time’

NEW YORK: UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres warned on Friday that a lack of global coordination in efforts to end the coronavirus crisis will prolong the pandemic and cause more deaths, particularly in poorer countries.
In a video message released as the global COVID-19 death toll reached the “heart-wrenching” milestone of 2 million lives lost, he appealed for countries to work more closely together to end the pandemic and its cycle of death.
It took 10 months after the disease emerged in December 2019 to reach the first “grim milestone” of 1 million dead at the end of September last year. That number has now doubled in less than four months.
In addition to the human cost, the pandemic has wreaked havoc in the economies of almost every nation. Many people have lost their jobs and livelihoods, with millions forced into poverty and hunger worldwide.
Guterres said that behind that staggering 2 million figure are the names and faces of real people who were taken from their families.
“The smile now only a memory, the seat forever empty at the dinner table, the room that echoes with the silence of a loved one,” Guterres said as he calling for greater international solidarity “in memory of those two million souls.”
As safe and effective vaccines are approved and rolled out, the UN is supporting the largest global immunization operation in history. Guterres stressed that the organization is committed to ensuring vaccines are treated as a global public resource — the “people’s vaccines.”
With that in mind, he called for full funding of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator — a global collaboration that aims to speed up the development, production and equitable distribution of vaccines, ensuring fair access to them — and its COVAX Facility, an initiative involving 64 higher-income countries that is working to ensure vaccines reach all those in most dire need. It was set up in response to a call by G20 leaders in March last year and launched the following month by the WHO and partners including the EU, France, the UK, Canada and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
“The world’s leading economies have a special responsibility,” said Guterres, denouncing what he described as “a vaccine vacuum” created by rich countries buying up vaccine supplies, leaving none for the world’s poorest nations. Some countries are “pursuing side deals, even procuring beyond need,” he added.
While all governments have a responsibility to protect their populations, Guterres warned that indulging in such “vaccinationalism” is self-defeating and will delay a global recovery.
“COVID-19 cannot be beaten one country at a time,” he added.
The UN chief called on all countries to share excess doses of vaccine so that health workers around the world can be inoculated as a matter of urgency to prevent the collapse of health systems, and so that those on front line of the battle against the pandemic and its effects can be prioritized, including humanitarian workers and people in high-risk populations.
As the virus continues to spiral out of control in a number of countries, Guterres urged caution and called on everyone to take precautions to protect the most vulnerable in society and slow the spread of infections.
“As the science continues to blaze new trails of hope, let’s also remember the simple and proven steps we can all take to keep each other safe: wearing masks, physically distancing and avoiding crowds,” he added.