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Overseas Pakistanis iVoting Could Herald Change in Polls Calculus

AUG 31, 2018: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday okayed the use of i-voting system by overseas Pakistanis in the upcoming by-polls after the Supreme Court ruled that the system was ready for use.

According to the ECP, the by-polls will be held on National Assembly’s 11 and provincial assemblies’ 26 constituencies. If successful, the system could be implemented in local government polls also next year.

The voter registration process will start on September 1 and overseas Pakistanis will be given 15 days to register themselves to vote on the ECP website or on overseasvoting.gov.pk. The registration will end on September 15.

The overseas Pakistanis will only be able to vote in the constituencies their vote is registered in. According to a report, there are nearly 30,000 overseas Pakistanis in each constituency countrywide. Their voting in October 14 by-polls could bring some changes in the result calculus, observers say.

Nearly 9.5 million Pakistanis overseas mostly concentrated in Saudi Arabia, UAE, UK and North America have been waiting for their offsite voting facility since the Supreme Court’s landmark verdict in 2012. Partywise, PTI which has a substantial following among Pakistanis in the Kingdom has been most vocal about ivoting and wanted it implemented in July 25 general elections. Jamaat Islami has also bee wanting the same.

PML-N which also has a huge following in the Middle East and UK wanted ivoting implemented in phases.

Some parties including PPP object to ivoting by overseas Pakistanis in the upcoming by-polls.

However, only those overseas Pakistanis who are already registered voters will be able to exercise their right to vote in the upcoming by-polls — they will able to cast their vote through machine-readable passports.

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 Pakistanis living abroad through this system can also check the list of constituencies where general elections and as well as polls by-polls will be conducted,” said ECP’s Director General of Public Relation, Nadeem Qasim to media on Friday.

As per the apex court’s directive, the results of the i-voting will remain segregated from the basic balloting process so that it could not affect the election results in case of any dispute.

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.






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