ISLAMABAD: Top officials of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the law ministry held a meeting on Tuesday to review e-voting facility for overseas Pakistanis for May 11 polls for which the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) has developed a software.
A source told Dawn that those attending the meeting had already reached the conclusion that overseas Pakistanis should not be allowed to cast their vote this year due to what they called ‘incomplete’ arrangements and some legal and diplomatic constraints. The meeting was also attended by Attorney General Irfan Qadir.
“It has been decided that another round of talks on the e-voting will be held on Wednesday. It will also be attended by representatives of Finance Ministry, Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis, Foreign Office, Ministry of Information Technology and Nadra,” a senior official of the law ministry said.
It has been learnt that caretaker government and the ECP are on the same page on the issue as they don’t want the overseas Pakistanis to cast their votes in the May 11 polls due to ‘incomplete’ arrangements.
But, the Supreme Court has directed the government and the ECP to ensure provision of e-voting facility to overseas Pakistanis.
The government and the ECP have now agreed that they will try to convince the Supreme Court at the April 11 hearing of the case that it would not be a sagacious decision to allow Pakistanis living abroad to cast their votes.
According to official data reported by media, more than 4.3 million Pakistanis living in 15 countries and possessing National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis (NICOP) have been registered in the electoral rolls.
The data shows that the ECP had registered 1.7m Pakistanis living in Saudi Arabia, 1.3m in UAE, 367,988 in the UK; 277,131 in Oman; 131,589 in the US, 93,345 in Kuwait, 90,148 in Canada, 80,166 in Bahrain, 71,874 in Qatar, 56,495 in Greece; 55,851 in Italy, 55,478 in Malaysia, 39,618 in Spain, 23,585 in France and 15,728 in Australia.
Of a total of 4,339,728 overseas Pakistanis, 3,513,248 have been registered in the Middle East where even local people are not allowed to gather in large number to hold any sort of rally or procession let alone expatriates of any country.
Informed sources in the ECP said that leaving Arab countries aside for the moment, if 15 per cent of voters registered in United States come out to vote on the polling day, it would be a huge problem for the ECP to handle over 65,000 voters at limited polling stations, which can only be set up in embassies and consulates.
However, top Nadra officials claim that the e-voting software prepared by the organisation was fool-proof and feasible and could facilitate overseas Pakistanis to cast their vote first time in the country’s history.
Nadra chairman Tariq Malik on Tuesday briefed caretaker Minister for Overseas Pakistanis Barrister Feroz Jamal Shah Kakakhel at a meeting at the Nadra Headquarters that the system was secure and technically ready to be installed subject to approval by the ECP.
Nadra’s System of E-Voting According to the system prepared by Nadra, overseas voters will be informed through online applications available at Pakistani missions’ aboard and holders of the National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis (NICOP) or Machine Readable Passport (MRP) registered with ECP could cast their votes.
On the polling day, the voter will have to physically come to the polling station set up abroad along with his/her NICOP and MRP.
On the computer screen, the voter will be shown a list of candidates against his/her native constituency along with the candidate’s name and election symbol.
The voter will select the candidate of his/her choice by clicking through the mouse on the candidate and after the click a confirmation will be shown to voter that the vote is being cast against selection made by the voter.
On confirmation, the vote will be cast in the ECP database without retaining any identity record of the voter.
This will be carried out through reliable and secure intranet connectivity to ECP database with all Pakistani foreign missions and consulates where this facility will be provided.