The Supreme Court granted overseas Pakistanis the right to vote last year in February. While in the middle, there was much talk of arrangements being made to implement this right, the ECP now says that any haphazard arrangements, such as voting via an online database, will leave the credibility of free and fair elections under question. Hacking is one hazard, identity impersonation is another. Many countries are already facing problems with E-voting, according to the ECP.
The attorney general, Irfan Qadir, for one, argues that overseas Pakistanis have not been deprived of their right to vote, since they can come back to their home constituencies and vote from there if they like.
Those who are living abroad, however, see it another way. For them, as citizens of Pakistan, they have the right to cast their vote as much as anyone else. Many feel that considering the amount of money they invest in Pakistan in terms of remittances, for example, means it is even more unfair for their voice to be ignored.
Moreover, if Pakistanis living outside the country can exercise their franchise, it could actually have a significant impact on certain constituencies where there are extremely high numbers of Pakistanis living abroad. It can be argued that very few people can afford to come back at a moment’s notice just to cast their vote.
But with time running out, a decision has to be made fast. Is the provision of facilities for voting from abroad feasible? Is it worth the possible consequences of unfair elections? Can the ECP establish a workable system in time?
Moreover, will giving them a chance to vote actually have a significant impact on electoral results?