The ECP in a briefing to Senate Standing Committee on Interior has revealed that an anonymous phone call was made to election officials on the night of July 25. The caller had allegedly ordered returning officers to not use RTS. The ECP is investigating this matter.
ECP officials informed the Senate committee that the commission has requested FIA to conduct a forensic audit of the voice message saved in a USB – which has been sent to the FIA – and submit a comprehensive report at the earliest in order for the inquiry to proceed further.
The Android-based application called RTS had ‘crashed’ during the general elections of July25. ECP and NADRA pointed fingers at each other for the system’s failure while political parties cited it as a ‘proof’ of rigging. The failure or non-functional of RTS provided an opportunity to the losing parties to point fingers at ECP for an alleged rigging.
Under Election Act 2017, the ECP was made bound to establish a transparent results management system for expeditious counting, tabulation, compilation, transmission, dissemination and publication of results in the official Gazette and the website of the commission.
Two type of software were used by the ECP during the general election 2018 – the RMS and the RTS. The ECP introduced the RMS to further improve accuracy, efficiency and transparency of the results. The ECP made the claim before the general election of July 25 that final results will be announced within hours of vote count. But it hadn’t happened.
The RMS was supposed to have the capacity to store all the scanned pages of Forms-XIV, XVI & XVII along with data, stored into the database, permanently for audit trail accountability purposes.
The returning officers (ROs) were supposed to compile the provisional results and, on, or before 2am, the day immediately following polling day and communicate these results electronically to the ECP.
Under the act, the presiding officer is to immediately take a snapshot of the result and, as soon as the connectivity is available and it is practicable, electronically send it to the ECP and the ROS before sending the original documents under section 90.
But RTS failure forced the presiding officers to send the results manually or over the phone to returning officers. This lengthy process delayed the results and created doubts on the transparency of election results.
The parliament has already formed a parliamentary committee to probe and investigate the allegations of rigging and manipulation of election results. The Opposition parties refused to accept the election results and alleged that PTI’s majority is the result of rigging and manipulated election results.
An independent and transparent investigation is important to determine the weaknesses and shortcomings of election process and results. It will not only give much needed legitimacy to the PTI government but also to overcome these shortcomings and weaknesses. A transparent, fair, independent and impartial election is necessary for the legitimacy of the democratically elected government.
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25 August, 2019