December 16, 2018

FIA asked to probe ‘anonymous’ call on election night

News Source: Express Tribune

Writer: Riazul Haq

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has sought assistance from the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to probe an ‘anonymous’ phone call, directing polling staff to stop using the Result Transmission System (RTS) during the July 25 general election.

The android-based application had ‘crashed’ on the election night. The ECP and the National Database Regulatory Authority (Nadra) pointed fingers at each other on the failure of the system while political parties cited it as a ‘proof’ of rigging.

During a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Parliamentary Affairs on Wednesday, ECP Director General Law Muhammad Arshad revealed that an anonymous phone call was made to election officials in the wee hours of July 26. The caller had allegedly ordered returning officers not to use the RTS.

Arshad produced a letter before the committee through which the commission has requested the FIA to conduct a forensic audit of the voice message saved in the USB – which has been sent to the FIA. He has also asked the agency to submit a comprehensive report at the earliest in order for the inquiry to proceed further.

Committee member Senator Rehman Malik also discussed in detailed as to how he and his committee on the interior looked into the RTS failure and the ECP responsibility. “I shared this audio call in the House with senators a couple of months ago,” he said.

Malik said after a forensic audit of the elections process, he had reached conclusion on certain points. The RTS system started getting slower at 10:58pm on July 25 and the result receiving capacity nosedived from 50,000 to 50 results at the end, he added.

The senator said that an Indian company was awarded the contract of producing the RTS software, which had its office in Hyderabad, India while another sub-office in New York, United States.

“The company is run by two hackers of India who are infamous for working for India’s Research and Analysis Wing,” he claimed.
According to him, as per the findings, about 4,800 returning officers did not have smart phones while another 42,000 polling staff had already refused to comply with the ECP directives.

“You should have determined those areas where connectivity was the issue,” he told the ECP officials who were unable to give a satisfactory reply to a flurry of questions from the senators.
ECP DG Information Technology Khizer Hayat shared a detailed presentation with the committee about the process, usage and practicability of the RTS.

Hayat concluded that major challenges during the elections were connectivity and low level of understanding on the part of presiding officers and assistant presiding officers regarding the RTS usage. He also said that compatibility of the handsets with the RTS was another hindrance in failure to submit the results timely.

Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) Secretary General Sarwar Bari also gave his input and findings to the committee and stated that the connectivity with 2G was a serious problem in many areas.
“No test was conducted for such areas and that led to the serious trouble,” he said.

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