SC asks ECP, Nadra to respond on noncompliance of overseas Pakistanis voting mechanism

MAMOSA Report — Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Tuesday sought report from the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) over non-compliance of its directive to devise voting mechanism for Pakistanis abroad.

A 3-member bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar sought the report while resuming a case filed by several overseas Pakistanis jointly regarding right of vote.

Over 8.5 million Pakistanis and dual nationals live abroad, however, they are unable to exercise their right to vote in Pakistan’s elections – national, provincial and in local governance, except to fly home and physically caste their vote – an inconvenience which many observers say can be resolved, if political will of all parties prevail.

Chairman Welfare Society for Overseas Pakistanis Rights (WSOPR), Barrister Dawood Ghaznavi along with 35 overseas Pakistanis residing in 14 different countries, have filed a petition in the SC through their counsel ASC Mujtaba Haider Sherazi, for the implementation of the apex court’s landmark judgment establishing that its a fundamental right of overseas Pakistanis to vote in elections in Pakistan.

The SC in its judgment PLD 2014 SC 72 in 2013, established that overseas Pakistani’s right to vote in elections in Pakistan is their fundamental right under Article 17 of the Constitution that insists upon the Federal Government to extend the facility of voting to overseas Pakistanis in the election of the National Assembly as well as local bodies, and such right cannot be denied on technical grounds, i.e. logistical arrangements made outside the country for casting votes.

According to the Plaintiffs, in 2014, Parliamentary Committee for Electoral Reforms was constituted for electoral reforms in Pakistan. The committee constituted a sub- committee for devising mechanism for overseas voting under the chairmanship of PTI stalwart Dr. Arif Alvi MNA. The committee met for 65 times, but failed to devise any voting mechanism for overseas Pakistanis. The Draft Election Bill 2017 tabled on 20th December 2016, mentioned no voting mechanism for overseas Pakistanis.

The SC judgment was passed a month before 2013 general elections. The then President of Pakistan did promulgate The Elections Law (Amendment) Ordinance 2013, 2 days before the general elections but due to time restraint the voting couldn’t take place. The ordinance died its natural constitutional death after 4 months, while not placing it in the parliament to make it permanent Act of the Constitution.

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