Pakistan’s science minister annouces prize for hacking new voting machines

Federal Minister for Science and Technology Shibli Faraz announced on Friday that the government will reward with cash prize for hacking the locally manufactured latest voting machines.

Pakistan’s science minister annouces prize for hacking new voting machines

A person who can hack the locally manufactured electronic voting machine (EVM) will get Rs1 million, Minister for Science and Technology Shibli Faraz announced Friday.

“We will challenge hackers to hack the electronic voting machine and if they can hack it, we will give them an award of Rs1 million,” the science minister told journalists. Faraz said there was “no easier way to cast a vote” than the EVM and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) should not put itself in a “controversial position”.

Faraz told the media that 400,000 machines had been produced locally and the cost of manufacturing per machine was estimated between Rs75,000-70,000. The 27 out of 37 points that the ECP had highlighted in a document submitted to the Senate Standing Committee on Parliamentary Affairs are a “charge sheet” against it, he said.

“The election commission does not want to conduct elections through the EVM.” Faraz’s statement came after officials of the ECP had walked out of a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Parliamentary Affairs following federal minister Azam Swati accusing the commission of taking bribes.

A session of the committee was held under the chair of Senator Taj Haider during which the debate on the usage of electronic voting machines for the next general elections turned hostile. Opposition senators said that Swati cannot accuse a constitutional body of taking bribes, and asked the senator to provide proof to back his claim.

Swati then added that such institutions conduct all elections through “rigging” and should be “set on fire”. At this, the ECP officials walked out in protest. Two days back, addressing a press conference in Islamabad, Faraz said that the ECP had neither rejected the EVM nor approved it.

The federal minister said people who had won elections through “rigging” do not want electronic voting machines to be used during polls. There has been a heated debate between the government, the opposition, and other stakeholders over the use of EVMs, with the Centre claiming it is the way forward to make the elections in the country transparent.

Faraz mentioned the ECP had sent a 37-point objection letter to the government, and in it, as many as 27 points were not related to EVMs — they were about the ECP’s capacity to use them.

“Only 10 points were in direct objection to the electronic voting machine […] 27 other points relate to the election commission’s capacity to use them,” he said. The federal minister said ECP’s technical team held its first meeting over the EVMs, and the Ministry of Science and Technology has provided them with almost all the reports they had sought — the remaining reports will be sent to them in the coming days. Three days back, the ECP said EVMs can not stop rigging in elections, as it rejected the government’s proposal to use them during polls.

“EVMs cannot be used to conduct free and transparent elections in line with the Constitution,” the ECP had said in a document submitted to the Senate Standing Committee on Parliamentary Affairs.

The ECP, explaining why the EVM can not stop rigging, said it can be “hacked”, easily “tampered with”, and the “software can be easily changed”. The machine can “misuse state power”, and it “cannot prevent horse-trading”, the ECP had maintained.

“There is no secrecy of the voter in the electronic voting machine; there is a lack of transparency; testing time before the next general election is less; stakeholders are not on board; people have not been taken into confidence,” the ECP said in its objections.

The ECP highlighted it did not have enough funding to roll out the machines throughout the country, and it also asked the government how it can be sure of the machine’s transparency.

Originally published at The News