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More time needed: Overseas vote

Published Apr 01, 2013 01:05am


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OVERSEAS Pakistanis should be able to vote in Pakistani elections, but as important as giving them that facility is making sure that it runs smoothly and is secure. Understandably, officials of the Election Commission of Pakistan have said that trying to put overseas voting in place in time for the upcoming elections, as the Supreme Court had suggested, would be risky. First, there are the basic challenges: determining who should be able to vote and how they will vote, setting up the infrastructure required at home and abroad, and ensuring that the process is a secure one in which votes aren’t lost, misdirected or tampered with. This stage also includes settling the fundamental question of whether overseas voters will constitute a separate constituency or vote from the last (or another) constituency they lived in while in Pakistan.

Then there are problems specific to the Pakistani expatriate community and electoral system. The high number of emigrants from certain areas means they have the ability to change election outcomes in those constituencies, which increases the costs of any manipulation or lapses. Also, the country’s electoral system is not a presidential one with a couple of candidates contesting elections. Numerous candidates run for each of hundreds of constituencies, which means an incredible volume of paperwork to be shared with foreign missions unless a system is worked out in which overseas voters form a single constituency or are registered for their home constituency ahead of time. Voting over the internet, the ECP has argued, would be too risky in terms of information security. Determining what the best mechanism is and putting it in place cannot be done in a few weeks. Overseas Pakistanis deserve to be able to vote. But they also deserve a user-friendly and secure system, even if that means waiting till the next elections.

Comments (3) Closed

Salman Ahmed Apr 01, 2013 07:16am
I totally disagree with this opinion. 1. The local elections are not exactly flawless - so please do not give the argument that it has to be right, when the remaining 90% cannot be guaranteed to be AND HAS NEVER BEEN error free either. 2.This can be achieved very easily. ALL overseas Pakistanis have NICOP cards with their addresses and ALL have passports. It will be extremely difficult for someone to impersonate the holder of a passport with a valid visa for the country. 3. Hundreds of overseas Pakistani volunteers will be available at all locations if needed to man the polling stations. 4. The process of voting for overseas Pakistanis should start 10 days before the elections and finish 2 days before to provide the lists of persons who have already voted to the relevant constituencies so that there is no duplicate vote in Pakistan.. 5. Halls could be hired in different localities in the overseas countries where the voter numbers are sizable. The software already exists and aggregation of the data is not a major issue and techies can design and test software withing a week. I am amazed at the attitude of the ECP and NADRA as well as the armchair pundits who want to deny overseas Pakistanis the vote. Remember, this is the portion of the population that helps keep this country afloat.
Ahmed Apr 01, 2013 01:39pm
It is not as if no one knew till yesterday that Pakistan has an expatriate community. And how was NADRA has been able to spend $15 million so quickly to build a computer system that is not even going to be used?
Tariq Apr 01, 2013 05:31pm
Nadra can develop a secure yet simple software and a website where an overseas voter with a valid NIC card can register. And if all mandatory fields that are set by Nadra match verifying a genuine NIC card from a bogus/expired one, then their software would send an email giving a link to the registering voter to cast their vote and all in the comfort of their home where ever may they be in the world as long as they had an access to the internet!