Supreme Court of Pakistan. — File photo

ISLAMABAD: A three-member Supreme Court bench on Friday observed that without the participation of eligible overseas Pakistani voters, elections could not be called fair and transparent.

The bench, comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Khilji Arif Hussain and Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, was hearing a petition filed by PTI chief Imran Khan seeking voting rights for Pakistanis living abroad.

The bench noted that participation of overseas Pakistanis in the upcoming general elections was possible given right steps are taken by concerned authorities.

The chief justice noted that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) should take concrete steps to enable participation of overseas Pakistanis in the polls.

He said there was no need to pass a separate law for giving voting rights to the eligible overseas Pakistanis.

The apex court on Feb 14 had handed out a set of proposals for ensuring voting rights to overseas Pakistanis in the coming general election.

The court had noted that the task appeared to be arduous, but it suggested an immediate meeting between the election commission and the ministries of interior and overseas Pakistanis to devise a mechanism for the purpose and wanted the outcome to be submitted by Feb 22.

During the hearing on Friday, Muhammad Munir Piracha, counsel for ECP, contended that a legislation was necessary to enable the overseas Pakistanis to cast their votes. But the court rejected his contention, noting that no any such legislation was required.

The chief justice said that if vote could be cast through postal ballot within the country, then why not it could be cast from outside the country.

He said vote could be cast from outside the country by writing the name of constituency on the ballot paper and such ballot papers could be issued and received by the concerned Pakistani embassy.

The chief justice observed that the ECP had vast powers for holding the elections, adding the ECP could devise a mechanism for the registered voters facilitating them to cast their votes.

Justice Chaudhry asked the ECP’s counsel as what steps had been taken to declare casting of vote mandatory.

The bench also sought a report on meetings held under the chairmanship of the Attorney General with the concerned officials and adjourned the hearing to Feb 27.

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