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ISLAMABAD, Oct 30: Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry has suggested that the Pakistanis living abroad should be given the right to vote.

“Prima facie we are of the opinion that they (overseas Pakistanis) should be given the right of franchise,” he observed while heading a two-judge bench that had taken up a petition of Tehrik-i-Insaaf chief Imran Khan for granting voting right to the Pakistanis living abroad.

The overseas Pakistanis shed blood and sweat to earn foreign exchange for the country, the chief justice observed and said that 24 to 25 countries had granted the right to their citizens living abroad through a system of postal ballots.

Advocate Waqar Rana, who appeared in the absence of Hamid Khan, the main counsel for Imran Khan, recalled that at the last hearing the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had assured the court of submitting proposals to grant the right to overseas Pakistanis after consulting the federal government.

But no-one from the commission was there on Tuesday to say something about the latest situation in this regard.

“They have gone to celebrate Eid,” the court said. It observed that it failed to understand why the counsel was not showing interest in the matter.

But, the CJ expressed the hope that modalities would soon be evolved to let the Pakistanis living abroad take part in the general election in a transparent manner because the elections were just round the corner.

During the proceedings on Jan 24, the ECP had told the court that the task of granting voting right to overseas Pakistanis seemed arduous because they numbered eight million and lived in different countries.

The National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) had stated that it had issued 4.4 million national identity cards to overseas Pakistanis (NICOPs), living in 20 countries. An official said the authority had registered over 1.5 million people in Saudi Arabia, 1.3 million in UAE, 829,080 in UK, 197,540 in US, 19,465 in Germany and 150,020 in Canada.

The figure of 4.4 million did not include the people who had gone abroad from Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, the official said.

Out of the 4.4 million, 3.7 million were men and 612,830 women, he said.

On Tuesday Advocate Rana invited the attention of the court to a petition filed by Advocate Rasheed A. Razvi on behalf of the Jamaat-i-Islami, complaining that the votes of a sizeable number of people living in Karachi had been registered in their native towns — Mingora and other places of Swat — though they had been earning livelihood in the metropolitan city for 30 to 35 years.

The chief justice said those who had been deprived of the right (to vote) should immediately knock on the doors of the ECP to get the situation rectified.

Instead of consuming time here (in the court), he said, they should move applications to the commission individually for the registration of their votes.

The court postponed further proceedings for Nov 7.