The Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday granted one week to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to submit recommendations for a mechanism through which overseas Pakistanis could take part in by-polls expected to be held in October.
A three-member bench, led by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar, was told by ECP Secretary Babar Yaqoob today that by-polls for 50 constituencies would be held between October 15-20 this year.
Yaqoob, who told the court that elections had been held in 849 constituencies, said that the ECP would try its best to enable overseas Pakistanis to cast their votes in the by-polls, and sought a week's time to submit recommendations for a mechanism that would allow them to take part in the polling process.
According to National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) Chairman Usman Mobin, there are on average 29,000 Pakistani voters overseas registered in each National Assembly constituency.
Take a look: Overseas Pakistanis can’t vote in 2018: ECP
The CJP regretting that although overseas Pakistanis had wished to vote in the General Election, a mechanism to allow this to happen could not be devised in time.
The court was informed by Yaqoob that holding a by-poll on a single seat would set the national exchequer back by about Rs200 million.
Justice Nisar remarked that those who contest elections from more than one constituency should have considered the additional costs of holding by-polls. "The amount could have been used to build dams in the country," he said.
Justice Umar Ata Bandial wondered whether candidates who won elections on multiple seats, leaving several seats vacant, could be directed to pay for the by-polls held on those seats.
The CJP asked the ECP secretary if politicians could be barred from contesting polls on more than one or two constituencies at a time, to which Yaqoob responded that the ECP had forwarded recommendations in this regard to the Parliament, but lawmakers had rejected them.
"The parliament is supreme, what can we say," the chief justice remarked.
When asked about the delay in results of the 2018 general election, Yaqoob told the court that the Results Transmission System (RTS) had not stop functioning, but had slowed down on election night as a result of overload when election results from 85,000 polling stations were being uploaded simultaneously.
The hearing of the case will resume on August 15.