Overseas Pakistanis to be part of election process: SC informed

The Supreme Court of Pakistan was informed on Thursday that home work had been completed to materialize the fact to include overseas Pakistanis in the forthcoming general elections.

The apex court was further apprised that a recent meeting of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and other functionaries of the Government of Pakistan (GoP) discussed the issue of providing right to franchise to overseas Pakistanis and came to a conclusion that their participation would be ensured.

This was told to a three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed when it resumed hearing over the identical constitutional petitions of Imran Khan and others.

During the course of proceeding, Director General ECP Sher Afgan apprised the bench regarding the meetings held at the ECP between all the stakeholders on April 9th and 10th.

Giving the report of the meetings, he stated that the meetings came to a conclusion that the inclusion of overseas Pakistanis in the coming election was quite possible and taking the first step it was decided that initially Pakistanis residing in ten countries would be included in this exercise.

“About 4.5 million registered voters are residing in other countries, out of which 3.5 million are in the Middle East and 2.9 million out of this figure are currently living only in two countries of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates,” he informed the court.

Afgan further apprised the court that in Saudi Arabia about one million Pakistanis have manual passports, thus they would not be able to take part in the elections because the Machine Readable Passport (MRP) was the pre-requisite for them.

DG Election Commission further stated that the NADRA had made E-voting software for the expatriates which would be utilized during the coming elections.

Upon which, Justice Gulzar questioned that when an overseas would cast his vote in another country, his vote could also be used in his own constituency which would be tantamount to using one vote for two times.

However, DG ECP brushed away this notion and stated that there would be very meagre chances of mistakes in the current E-voting system.

Attorney General for Pakistan Irfan Qadir apprised the court that as the first step towards materializing this exercise would be the legislation in the law.

The AG stated that while including certain clauses in the legislation, the process of giving right to the expatriates in the forthcoming elections would become easier.

DG ECP apprised the court that once the process of legislation is completed, they would need help from the overseas ministry and foreign office as the process of deputing staff in the foreign mission would also take time.

He further stated that in countries where the population of registered voters would be over 100,000 two polling stations would be constituted and less than that number one polling station would be set up.

Sher Afgan stated that the process of issuing visas to the staff appointed in foreign missions would take two to three week times.

The Chief Justice highly appreciated the work done by the ECP, NADRA and other GoP functionaries for their hard work and devotion in making this task possible.

He remarked that the work which seemed to be impossible a month before, seems to be possible now and thus overseas Pakistanis, who are the backbone of our economy, would also participate in the election process.

Later, the bench adjourned further hearing for ten days while directing the ECP to submit further report on the legislation and other matters.