Electoral reforms

Published July 14, 2021

IN a welcome move, the government has showed its readiness to withdraw some clauses of the electoral reforms bill on which the opposition and the Election Commission of Pakistan had raised objections. During a meeting of the Senate standing committee on parliamentary affairs, Minister of State Ali Muhammad Khan said the government would not pursue anything which is against the Constitution. The committee has started the process of going over all the clauses of the bill one by one. One of the most important of these clauses pertains to giving the right to vote to overseas Pakistanis. The PTI government has fervently pushed for this initiative while the opposition, although it agrees with the principle, wants greater clarity on the issue. Such clarity is essential because there are various aspects of the proposal that need to be thoroughly debated.

Overseas Pakistanis, as the term goes, can be broadly classified into three categories. The first are Pakistan Origin Card, or POC, holders who have surrendered their Pakistani nationality but are facilitated by the Pakistani government through this card for travel and other purposes. The second category is those who hold the National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis, or NICOP, many of whom are dual nationals. This card enables these individuals to travel with ease to Pakistan. The third category are those who are working abroad but retain their Pakistani nationality. These three categories need to be discussed separately in respect to provision of voting rights. Those people who have surrendered their Pakistani nationality, pay taxes in their country of residence and are eligible voters in the country they are now citizens of, may not have a very strong case for being enfranchised as Pakistani voters. The dual nationality holders have also taken an oath of allegiance to another country and therefore a case can be made against their qualification to vote in Pakistan. Prime Minister Imran Khan is on record as having opposed allowing dual nationals to vote in Pakistani elections when he was in the opposition. Those Pakistanis, however, who retain their nationality and are working abroad have the strongest case to be allowed to vote in Pakistan. These are weighty matters and legislators should debate them thoroughly before deciding what to include in the electoral reforms bill that will become law after the revised draft is adopted by the two houses of parliament.

Published in Dawn, July 14th, 2021

Opinion

Editorial

Saudi investment
Updated 10 Apr, 2024

Saudi investment

The state has to address barriers that stand in the way of attracting foreign investment, and create a pro-business environment.
Charity for change
Updated 11 Apr, 2024

Charity for change

PAKISTANIS are large-hearted people who empty their pockets at the slightest hint of another’s need. The Stanford...
World Bank’s advice
Updated 09 Apr, 2024

World Bank’s advice

The next IMF programme will be far tougher than any other Pakistan has embarked on in the past.
Middle East heat
09 Apr, 2024

Middle East heat

America must communicate to Israel that further provocations, particularly targeting sovereign states, will be unacceptable.
Killing fields
09 Apr, 2024

Killing fields

PERHAPS rankled by the daily flood of grisly news — murders, armed robberies, muggings and kidnappings — and...