Illustration by Eefa Khalid.

“Here are the partial results of Halqa NA 420 United States cum Canada cum Cuba where Mansoor Ijaz of PML-N is leading Hussain Haqani of PPP by a thin margin. Shaukat Aziz of PML-Q is not far behind and as the results from the polling stations of Guantanamo Bay pour in, party tallies may change dramatically … and now a short break.”

That’s your favorite local news channel covering general elections 2013. You think it’s a sick joke. I tell you this is what is going to happen if the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) stands by its decision to give voting right to overseas Pakistanis. ECP had decided to grant expatriate Pakistanis right to vote in February 2012 without actually attempting to answer a plethora of questions. May be they had found the ‘announcement’ of the decision more important than the decision itself.

In Pakistan’s constitutional scheme, electoral constituencies have to be territorial and a voter has to be a resident of a geographically defined constituency. The ministry of overseas Pakistanis estimates that there are 5.5 million Pakistanis living in 105 countries and by the going standard they deserve 18 seats in National Assembly. So the six continents (I am excluding Antarctica presuming no Pakistani lives there!) will have to be divided into 18 constituencies. Australia and Saudi Arabia may fall in the same constituency and a candidate from there will have to rent a jet to do canvassing across the Indian Ocean. But wait, will our Middle Eastern brothers allow us to pollute their pristine political environs with these rather obscene, if not sacrilegious, electoral activities. These days even innocent ‘tweets’ can give them sleepless nights.

And for drawing up constituencies, the ECP will have to undertake a world-wide exercise of developing global electoral rolls. Error-free voter lists for the country itself could however remain a dream. ECP will have to set up polling stations in God knows how many cities. How will these be administered? And in case of a party indulging in any malpractice, the presiding officer will call which police, local or Pakistani? Pakistani police might be happy to reach out to such calls to duty. If you are imaginative enough, you can go on and very easily develop 101 funny ways through which Pakistani democracy is going to spread over the entire globe - after the frustrating failures of our horse-riding Kalashnikov-wielding shadowy heroes from the past hoisting a flag in every corner of the world.

Besides administrative practicalities, a whole host of legal issues regarding citizenship, political rights, jurisdictions and other matters will have to be addressed. Overseas Pakistanis can be divided into two groups. The bigger one comprises of labourers, skilled workers and professionals who flew over to Middle East with well-documented and time-barred contracts in hands and with hardly any possibility of them settling down in those countries for good. All countries offer voting facility to their citizens who, while performing official duties at a certain place, cannot physically present themselves at the polling station where they are registered.  Probably, this can be theoretically stretched to cover Pakistani workers in Middle East. But what about the other group - those who have settled down in and taken up citizenship of developed countries. I think that constitutionality and legality of this issue will stem from how do we see them?

So, how do we see our foreign Western relatives? It’s a mean mix of cautious envy and shear greed with a corner of the eye permanently focused on their glittering dollars. They are a source of always-much-needed easy money (economists call it foreign remittance, impressive!) that mostly ends up in consumer goods markets, lavish marriage ceremonies and worse of all in gaudy buildings in remote villages that remain unoccupied for ever. Some do it by choice and others are lured or flattered into this blind allay or simply subjected to extortion.

One clever way of wooing them in is to seek their expert advice on how to defeat a social evil, solve an economic riddle or handle a precarious political situation. If you had hit the right chord spare time, lots of, to listen to their words of wisdom along with the stories of how actually did they conquer the Wild West and yes remember not to yawn in between.

That’s bad manners. Can they be charmed by a voting right? I realise the gravity of the situation and the urgency of the need. Nikki’s marriage has been decided and is just a few months away. A whole list of dowry items is yet to be shopped and gold prices are already sky high. But I have my doubts that a vote will do the trick; why not depend on the old-hand strategy of emotional blackmail?


The writer works with Punjab Lok Sujag, a research and advocacy group that has a primary interest in understanding governance and democracy.


The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Tahir Mehdi works with Punjab Lok Sujag, a research and advocacy group that has a primary interest in understanding governance and democracy. He tweets @TahirMehdiZ.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Comments are closed.

Comments (17)

A K
June 7, 2012 6:14 pm
Mr. Agha. what do you mean by "International Media"? Please provide the source of this completely ridiculous post. Unless you can provide a link to a reliable historically unbiased source you owe an apology to about 5 Million people.
Bakhtiar Agha
June 6, 2012 8:02 am
Persons with dual nationlity should not be allowed to vote............. It is also reported by the international media, that,the majority of dual nationals helps extremist elements in pakistan..................If they have given the right of vote in pakistan...............just imagine ................
Ammar
June 7, 2012 8:58 am
Dear Kamran, Americans living in Pakistan and else where do vote in their presidential elections through their embassies. There are more than 5 million Pakistanis living abroad and they have every right to vote in Pakistani elections. These 5 million people are as Pakistani as you are or any one else in Pakistan is, and you dont have to keep a close eye on where we donate as this is our personal choice, for remittences sent to Pakistan in previous years just get the figures from state bank of Pakistan to see what we send home and how Pakistani economy is dependent upon our hard earned Dirham, Pounds and Dollars
Turkish Khan
June 7, 2012 11:05 am
Expat Pakistanis are backward?? Are you having a laugh mate. Expat Paksitanis dont chop girls noses off, or parade them naked (multan) or scald them with boiling water (kohistan). Please either learn more Pakistan or stop inserting your foot in your mouth.
Aimen
June 5, 2012 6:50 pm
The writer poses some useless questions. Votes can be registered with the constituency the overseas Pakistani originally hails from. Voting can easily be done via sending ballots to the embassy in the country. It will undoubtedly be hard to ensure that no corruption takes place in this process but it is manageable. Lastly, it is very easy to ridicule people living abroad but many of them are providing valuable foreign exchange to our country without which our economy would be in a worse state than it already is. Along with the laborers in the middle east, there are professionals in many parts of the world and thousands of students who care deeply about their country.
Tauqeer Mustafa
June 7, 2012 12:06 pm
Now can someone pleaseeeeee make ECP understand this :)
kamran
June 6, 2012 12:13 pm
Well its very odd to do that. I have never seen americans living in Pakistan, hoisting the flags of their respective parties on mall road or shahrah-e-dastoor at the time of US Elections. Its ridiculous to do that. We should just let expat pakistanis earn money and we should keep a close eye on where they donate.
G.a
June 6, 2012 11:54 am
Overseas Pakistanis are far more tolerant who have learned to live side by side other nationalities unlike people in Pakistan who do not get to meet foreign tourists because, well, there are none. Overseas Pakistanis are also involved in the electoral process of their adopted countries giving them experience in the democratic process. And ofcourse they are sending all those remittances that is helping keep Pakistan afloat. Let's face it. Pakistanis in Pakistan haven't exactly done wonders for the country themselves to demand that overseas Pakistanis keep out.
Turkish Khan
June 7, 2012 11:01 am
Kamran. Us Pakistanis working overseas support ourselve here and also send money back to Pakistan. Leeches like you living in Pakistan should be banned form voting because incompetence runs through your veins and it is the very myopic nature of your vision that has led to Pakistan being what it is. So please take your flag and run up and down mall road and watch the country go to the dogs that we overseas Pakistanis are trying extermely hard to keep buyoant.
Ammar
June 7, 2012 11:17 am
You are forgetting that Moeen Qureshi and Shukat Aziz were brought in by your beloved presidents to run the country and were not sent back to Pakistan by the expats. We dont need a loyalty certificate from people who will jump the ship for a few thousand dollars, we are as Pakistani as you are. You should be more concerned about the real issues poverty, education and economic situation of Pakistan. You should ask Mian Nawaz Sharif, Zardari and IK to bring their families back as well because if your kids are dual nationals or live in a forigen country then using your logic means that they are also not loyal.
Hasanalirana
June 5, 2012 9:47 pm
i assume it is humor , but you need to step one level down to enhance understanding.
M Khan
June 5, 2012 5:02 pm
This article makes no sense. Writer did not do any research on the topic. I live in Virginia and have NICOP card. NICOP card has two addresses, one permanent address of Pakistan and one in US. So, my vote will be casted in the area where permanent address is in Pakistan. I see no problem and confusion in this process. But hey this is Pakistan ... where simplest things are complicated and highly complicated things are easy for powerful elites.
BRR
June 5, 2012 5:01 pm
How can expat Pakistanis help eliminate a social evil when they themselves propagate them - just look at how backward some of these expats are - how they become militant Islamic warriors in UK, how they kill their daughters in the US and Canada, how they ship their daughters off to Pakistan as teenagers so that they don't get corrupted etc. Can you imagine these expats being a lot different than people back home? Not likely - they are as biased as those back home, if not worse.
Gaurav Arya
June 6, 2012 9:57 am
Its a tough topic that the author of this article is dealing with. There is no right or wrong way to do this. For example, India does not allow non-resident Indians to vote. Also, dual citizenship is not permitted since they believe "loyalty to India and India alone". I dont know if this is good or bad, but its uncomplicated.
jd shami
June 5, 2012 6:03 pm
No one with a dual nationality should be given the right to contest elections (for MPA's or MNA's seats) or to even to vote in Pakistan's elections, or to hold any government position including foreign service. These creatures, i mean the dual nationality ones, have no fedility towards Pakistan. If Pakistan's Legislature or Supreme Court did not stop this phenomenon, there will be more Shaykat Azizs, Moen Qureshis, Shams Wajid Hassana, etc.
SKChadha
June 16, 2012 8:29 am
Hay, I am also an Overseas Pakistani from Sialkot ...... My parents migrated to India during partition and I am borne and brought up in India ....... ? How and where can I vote .... ??
gp65
June 18, 2012 5:24 am
Non-resident American citizens can vote - yes. I do not believe American citizens living overseas who have also accepted some other nationality are allowed to vote.
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