Dream of voting rights for expatriates cannot be materialised: Minister


The Supreme Court was informed on Wednesday that materialising the dream of granting voting rights to overseas Pakistanis was near to impossible.

Information Technology Minister Dr Sania Nashtar apprised a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry regarding the reservations of the government and the hardships in the process of granting voting rights to overseas Pakistanis.

Dr Sania said that after holding various meetings with different stakeholders, including the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), Overseas Pakistanis Foundation (OPF), law ministry and NADRA, she had come to a logical conclusion that the practice of including expatriates in the upcoming general elections was not possible.

Giving details, she presented five difficulties which were being faced; including legislation enactment, preparation of a software for e-voting, deployment of software in foreign missions and Pakistani embassies, diplomatic hurdles, visa processing and training to the staff.

She maintained that the legislation was near to completion, while NADRA had also prepared the software required for e-voting.

The IT minister said that the real hardship was to test the software for accuracy as it was still untested and foreign missions and Pakistani embassies were not trained to carry out the practice.

Dr Sania reiterated that the process of training the staff and testing the e-voting software required at least 18 months.

At this, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry remarked that the case had started about two years ago.

He further said that neither the ECP nor the government was serious and sincere in providing voting right to overseas Pakistanis.

However, Dr Sania said she was stating facts and the view point of the government.

She maintained that the government functionaries could not express their inability to do so due to the court’s fear.

The CJ said that the apex court was kept in dark since the last two years and the real situation was not presented before the court by the ECP.

The CJ, while expressing annoyance over ECP, asked Sher Afgan to explain why he had wasted court’s precious time if they were unable to give a fundamental right to the Pakistanis living abroad.

ECP Director General Sher Afgan said that the commission had apprised the court about the difficulties being faced in this process several times.

He further said that the practice was not impossible, however it was time consuming and the upcoming general elections were around the corner.

Later, the bench adjourned further hearing of the case till April 25 and directed the IT minister to give a written explanation on the issue.