Right of vote for Overseas Pakistanis Now can participate in by-polls in October


 Nation special report
LONDON: Big news for 8.5 million Pakistanis who are living far from their motherland have been declared eligible to exercise their fundamental right to cast the vote and participate in polling procedures. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) will start voter registration of overseas Pakistanis from Saturday (September 1) for the upcoming by-polls in the country.
The registration process will continue till September 15.
Giving the details at a press conference here, Barrister Dawood Ghaznavi, Syed Qamar Raza (Chairman, WCOP) and Arif Malik (Director, WCOP) said that it was outstanding demand of overseas Pakistani diaspora that they should be involved in decisions making system and the only effective way is participating in election process.
As an initial start, the facility will be limited to those overseas Pakistanis whose votes fall within the 37 constituencies where by-elections are scheduled to be held in October.
Further, only those Pakistanis residing abroad with a machine readable passport (MRP) and a National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis (NICOP) will be eligible for registration.
The Foreign Office and NADRA will run awareness campaigns with the help of embassies in this regard
It is pertinent to mention here that on August 17, the Supreme Court allowed Pakistanis living abroad to vote in by-elections. Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar had remarked that overseas Pakistanis would be participating in the by-election through i-voting, a system that allows voters to cast ballots from any computer connected to the internet anywhere in the world.
Barrister Ghaznavi said pilot projects would be initiated for voting rights to overseas Pakistanis, which would not affect the results of by-elections. The decision on the use of i-voting would be made after several tests and pilot projects would be initiated in a limited area instead of an entire constituency. It said the IVTF was formed on the orders of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, adding that the task force comprises officials of NADRA and the ECP’s Law and IT Wings.
Elaborating the system, he said that an App would be introduced at the website of Election Commission and by clicking it, one can see the required details which have to be filled by the applicant. “A voter would need its NADRA card and Pakistani passport number ready to fill the form as without these two numbers no voter can be registered”.
“This is a outstanding demand and since it has been fulfilled, overseas diaspora should utilise it”, Barrister Ghaznavi said.As expatriate votes would be cast through the ECP website, the Commission would generate a Form-45 containing the number of overseas ballots in each constituency and send them to the designated returning officer for inclusion in the consolidated results. The ECP would be authorised to exclude votes cast through the Internet where it deems that the technical efficacy, secrecy and security of the process has not been maintained.Upon the completion of the October by-elections, the ECP would submit a report on the pilot project to the Parliament, as is mandatory under the Election Act 2017. Article 103(1) of this act reads: “The Commission may conduct pilot projects for voting by Overseas Pakistanis in by-elections to ascertain the technical efficacy, secrecy, security and financial feasibility of such voting and shall share the results with the Government, which shall, within fifteen days from the commencement of a session of a House after the receipt of the report, lay the same before both Houses of Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament).
”The term “pilot project” in the above article was initially interpreted as being applicable to mock voting in a electoral rehearsal. The Supreme Court re-interpreted it to mean a small-scale voting process such as by-elections. There is also a safety clause in article 84-C (2) the Election Act 2017, which empowers the ECP to exclude expatriate votes from the final tally where technical efficacy, secrecy and security of voting has not been maintained.