ISLAMABAD: The National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) on Tuesday informed a parliamentary committee that giving the right of vote to eight million overseas Pakistanis through the internet was viable.

Briefing the sub-committee of the parliamentary committee on electoral reforms, Nadra officials said that it would require registration of overseas Pakistanis and their biometric fingerprints.

Convener of the sub-committee and Law Minister Zahid Hamid later told reporters that the overseas Pakistanis under the plan would be provided with a code and they would be able to cast their votes using a designated mobile phone. He said the committee agreed to give the responsibility of registration of overseas Pakistanis and the operation related to the voting exercise to Nadra.

He said a report had been sought from Nadra within two weeks on how much time would be required for the registration.

Nadra authorities said they had the capacity to register 140,000 overseas Pakistanis in a year, and that capacity could be enhanced if resources were made available.

The committee asked Nadra to prepare a set of recommendations to propose measures and the requirement of resources to accelerate the registration process.

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, had directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in 2012 to study whether Pakistanis living abroad could exercise the right and work out a plan in the light of the experience of other countries. The ECP had announced giving the right of vote to those holding national identity cards for overseas Pakistanis following the SC’s verdict but failed to work out feasible modalities for the purpose.

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

Published in Dawn, August 17th, 2016