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Overseas Pakistanis get right to vote

The Election Commission of Pakistan. — AFP File Photo

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission has granted 3.7 million Overseas Pakistanis the right to vote. Their names will be included in the preliminary electoral rolls.

However, modalities for the intricate plan are yet to be worked out. Informed sources said various options were considered at a meeting presided over by Secretary of Election Commission Ishtiak Ahmad Khan on Tuesday.

The matters discussed at the meeting included setting up polling stations in embassies and consulates in over a dozen countries where large numbers of Pakistanis are living or work and expatriates in other countries being allowed to cast their votes through postal ballot.

The sources said that another proposal discussed was to allocate some seats in national and provincial assemblies with Overseas Pakistanis being the electoral college. The proposed criteria for candidates will be a minimum stay of three years abroad and remittances of at least $50,000. Those possessing dual nationality will have to surrender their foreign nationality to qualify as a voter.

EC Secretary Ishtiaq Ahmad Khan told this reporter that the total number of Overseas Pakistanis was 6.7 million, but only 3.7 million of them holding national identity cards for Overseas Pakistanis (NICOP) would be eligible to vote.

He said there were 1.7 million Pakistanis in Saudi Arabia and 1.2 million each in the United Kingdom and United Arab Emirates.

The other countries with large concentration of Pakistanis include United States (0.9 million), Canada (0.3 million), Oman (0.2 million), Kuwait (150,000), Greece (90,000), Germany (78,000), France and Scotland (60,000 each), Denmark (30,000) and Australia (27,000).

At the meeting, he invited suggestions for ways to get Overseas Pakistanis involved in the political process in Pakistan. The meeting discussed ways of enabling expatriates to cast their votes in a fair, transparent and acceptable manner.

The IT branch proposed that a detailed study should be carried to benefit from experience of other countries. But the EC secretary said “we have the first hand knowledge of our country and our condition and we must be dynamic and the pioneer in taking initiative towards a positive democratic system”.

He said all relevant ministries were committed to playing their role to enable overseas Pakistanis to cast their votes with ease.

Each ministry will formulate its proposal and present it to the committee in a meeting likely to be held next month.

Though the work on a proposal to give the right to vote to Overseas Pakistanis has been continuing for quite some time, the Supreme Court, on a petition filed by PTI chief Imran Khan, recently directed the Election Commission to study whether Pakistanis living abroad could exercise the right and work out a plan in the light and experience of other countries.

The meeting was attended by representatives of the ministries of law, finance, Overseas Pakistanis and International Foundation for Electoral System.


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