Returning officer from NA-197 Shahdadkot alleges EMS “failure”, “controlled by someone else”

In this still taken from a video, ECP officers can be seen overseeing the operations of the Election Monitoring Control Centre. — YouTube/@ElectionCommissionofPakistan
In this still taken from a video, ECP officers can be seen overseeing the operations of the Election Monitoring Control Centre. — YouTube/@ElectionCommissionofPakistan
  • ECP rejects concerns, terms them RO’s “IT incompetence”, “mischievous act”.
  • RO warns of difficulties in conduct of polls due to election management system.
  • Top electoral body carried out “successful” mock test of EMS on January 27.

With the February 8 nationwide polls set to be staged in less than a week, a returning officer (RO) of the NA-197 Shahdadkot raised serious questions regarding the Election Management System (EMS) — a result compilation mechanism prepared by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

The RO from the National Assembly’s constituency in Sindh, in his letter to the district returning officer (DRO), urged to pay attention to the alleged flaws in the top electoral body’s EMS.

He reported to the DRO regarding the errors in the poll management system, spotted during the uploading of the polling staff details. “The names of the polling staff had vanished despite being uploaded on EMS,” the RO claimed.

Expressing concerns over the software’s performance, the officer stated whether the entire EMS was a failure or “it is being controlled by someone else”.

He also complained about getting no response from the polling authority and the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) who had been approached to address the queries.

According to the aforementioned letter, the software was “creating difficulties” instead of smoothly performing the electoral tasks. The RO warned that the alleged flaws in the EMS would create difficulties for the smooth conduct of fair and free general elections.

In response to the letter, the ECP officers rejected the RO’s concerns about its poll management system and termed them “IT incompetence of the returning officer” and a “mischievous act”.

They replied: “All ROs had successfully uploaded their forms on EMS during a training session yesterday. Not a single RO raised complaints during the training session as per the chief secretary and the PEC (Pakistan Engineering Council).”

Further clarifying the situation, the ECP said that the details of polling staffers had already been uploaded to the EMS and there was no need to upload the records during yesterday’s training session again.

The commission added that it has trained ROs in reserve whose services could be acquired during the forthcoming polls.

The top electoral body carried out a “successful” mock test of its poll management system, EMS, on January 27 with useful and encouraging results.

The EMS, an automated and modern management system developed for tabulation of the election results, would be used by the ECP in the upcoming general elections to transmit and compile election results from presiding officers to returning officers.

During the 2018 general elections, the electoral body utilised its Results Transmission System (RTS) which, as per an ECP statement, suffered a “technical glitch” as it was being updated with election result data — leading to an overall delay in the announcement of poll results.

However, it is to be seen how the electoral body’s EMS performs on February 8 for which the election organising authority has envisaged a total of 90,675 polling stations with 276,402 polling booths for more than 128 million voters who will be electing their representatives on the said day.

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