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ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has extended the date from Sept 15 to Sept 17 for overseas Pakistanis to register and be able to vote in upcoming by-elections.

According to an official of the ECP, overseas Pakistanis have been asked to register themselves as voters by the due date so that they can exercise their democratic right to vote in the by-polls for 37 constituencies on Oct 14.

The official said that all registered overseas voters would be able to use the i-voting system. He said that a letter had been written to the secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to direct Pakistani missions abroad to educate overseas Pakistanis on the registration process and extend to them all possible assistance to participate in the by-polls.

He further elaborated that the ECP would prescribe a specific time window for overseas citizens to use the i-voting system. All eligible voters will cast their votes between 8am and 6pm — Pakistan Standard Time — on polling day.

The official said that overseas Pakistanis must have machine readable passports, national identity cards for overseas Pakistanis and valid email IDs in order to register themselves as voters. The ECP will use a special software, which will allow overseas Pakistanis to cast their votes by using their email. He said that the ECP had in partnership with the National Database and Registration Authority launched a website designed to help and inform overseas Pakistanis who wished to vote in the by-elections.

The i-voting system, he said, was a pilot project and after its first use on Oct 14, the commission would submit a report to parliament, which might then proceed to enact further legislation if necessary. The official said that the ECP was expecting overseas Pakistanis to take advantage of the new facility, and that their cooperation was important in the success of the programme.

He said that the facility would allow millions of Pakistani citizens living abroad to become part of the democratic process in the country, but the most important aspect, he claimed, was that the system came through without any problems so that it could be ensured that the security around it was foolproof.

Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2018