Architects allege elections ‘stolen through cyber attack’

ISLAMABAD: Eight candidates vying for the apex body of architects filed an objection petition alleging that Pakistan Council of Architects and Town Planners (PCATP) elections have been “stolen through a cyber-attack”.

The petition has been filed before the Convenor of the Election Committee of Pakistan Council of Architects and Town Planner (PCATP) by Jahangir Khan Sherpao, Azhar Mamoon Sualehi, Ahmad Mukhtar, Husnain Raza Khan, Mansoor Ahmad, Farman Ullah, Fahad Nizamani and Mahjabeen Bugti. The objectors have alleged that the elections have been stolen through hacking orchestrated by incumbent Chairperson M. Arif Changezi.

In their objection petition, the objectors have relied upon an official email which was sent by Oathsystems (Pvt.) Limited, the IT company entrusted with carrying out online elections, to the Registar, PCATP at 2:04 pm on March 7, 2023. In this panicked email, the IT company plainly admitted that some party orchestrated an hacking attack on the online voting system, and succeeded in manipulating the results. The IT company’s email states: “we witnessed an attack on our voting system at around 02:00 am on 7th March, 2023. As a result of this attack, our voting result was manipulated…. During our rectification process, the voting system was unavailable to the members for around 3 hrs… Despite the fact that we carefully corrected every piece of data… we cannot certify the result.” (italics)

After receiving this email, 2 members of PCATP Election Committee expressly rejected the election results. A third member, Arch. Yusuf Awan, who was also the Committee’s Convenor, wrote that “report of Conusltant IT be attached and shared with contestants and uploaded on the website”. Only 2 out of 5 members of the Election Committee approved the results. However, relying upon this minority opinion of the Election Committee, the incumbent Chairman Mr. Changezi proceeded to issue a notification declaring himself as the winner of the elections.

Speaking to TLTP, the leading objector, Arch. Jehangir Khan Sherpao said: “If the IT company which conducted the elections is stating in black and white that “they cannot verify the results”, how can anyone trust these results? Thousands of architects and town planners from all over country voted for me and my panel; however, their votes have been brazenly stolen – through hacking(cybercrime), whose beneficiary sadly appears to be the incumbent Chairman and his team. It is most shameful for this to happen in the elections conducted in a noble profession such as ours, and that too for a service position, not a political one.

There are around 10,000 registered architects and town planners in Pakistan. According to the PCATP Ordinance 1983, they are all entitled to vote for elections, which are supposed to be conducted every two years. The last two PCATP elections were conducted successfully through an online system by the same IT company. This year, the elections were again held through online voting from 10 am on the 4th March to 10 am on the 7th of March. However, on the last night of voting, the voting system got hacked and manipulate. As a result, the credibility of the credibility of the elections has become hotly disputed.

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