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ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) said on Tuesday that it was not acting in haste to enable overseas Pakistanis to vote in the coming by-polls in 37 national and provincial assembly constituencies.

Speaking at a press conference with a Nadra official, ECP spokesman Chaudhry Nadeem Qasim said that overseas Pakistanis had the right to vote, adding that it was an effort the political parties “should admire”.

Mr Qasim said the process of registering overseas voters was under way and it would complete on Sept 15. He hoped that the maximum number of voters could be registered in the last few days.

He said an awareness campaign about the i-voting mechanism had been launched. A video message would be broadcast on PTV and advertisements would appear in newspapers, he added.

Official says process of registering overseas voters is under way and will complete on Sept 15

The ECP spokesman explained that only holders of National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis (Nicop) and machine-readable passport (MRP) could be registered for the i-voting process. He urged all overseas Pakistanis to register for the by-elections.

After being registered as voters they will be sent a password before October 14 on the email address provided by them. The password will be issued between 8am and 6pm, Pakistan Standard Time.

Mr Qasim said that i-voting of overseas Pakistanis was a ‘pilot project’ and its report would be presented in parliament.

After the ECP decided to introduce internet voting, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) voiced their concern that the system was prone to hacking.

PPP leader Raza Rabbani alleged recently that the stage was being set to rig the next general elections through an electronic fraud.

“The i-voting system being put into place is flawed from its inception and has the ingredients of becoming a tool in the hands of forces that may want to manipulate elections in Pakistan,” he warned.

Mr Rabbani, who was the first one to raise the issue in the Senate, pointed out that the task force set up by the ECP had itself expressed reservations over the move to allow overseas Pakistanis to use their right of vote through the internet.

“There is no method to ensure that online a person is freely using his or her right of vote and is not being coerced by someone,” he said, adding that the system also did not provide for the secrecy of the vote which was a violation of Section 94 of the Elections Act and Article 226 of the Constitution.

The PML-N, through a declaration issued after its parliamentary party meeting recently, stated that the government had taken the decision in haste and paved the way for ‘pre-poll rigging’.

It had also urged the ECP to take all parties on board on the issue and satisfy technical experts in this regard.

The ECP, in its initial response, had stated that it was only complying with the orders of the Supreme Court.

Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2018