ISLAMABAD: The National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) is ready for deployment of e-voting facility in some selected countries to help 4.5 million Pakistanis living abroad in becoming part of the electoral process.
A source said Nadra chief Tariq Malik had written letters to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis to inform them that his organisation was ready to deploy e-voting facility for overseas Pakistanis.
“There is no denying the fact that deployment and installation of e-voting software in host countries is an uphill task and Nadra needs an immediate official nod, including funds amounting to $1.5 million,” said the Nadra official. Any inordinate delay would result in the disenfranchisement of 4.5m Pakistanis living abroad who could otherwise take part in the general election, he added.
Under the directives of Supreme Court (SC), Nadra developed a software within the given deadline for overseas registered voters to exercise their right to franchise. A demonstration was also made which was three-member bench of the SC headed by the chief justice.
The bench directed the Election Commission of Pakistan and the ministries of foreign affairs, law and overseas Pakistanis to take mandatory steps for the implementation of e-voting plan by April 20.
The first step is the requirement of legislation for which the Election Commission of Pakistan is supposed to prepare a draft for issuance of an ordinance. The second step involves making arrangements at foreign missions so that overseas voters may get themselves registered at first instance and cast votes on the polling day.
The third step involves taking permission from countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates where political assembly is not allowed. The fourth step involves expediting the visa process for officers and polling staff visiting the countries where polling stations would be established.
Nadra has recommended 10 countries — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Oman, Greece, United States of America, Kuwait, Canada, Bahrain, Qatar — for deployment of e-voting facility.
A senior official of Nadra said the authority had already started working on the implementation of this plan. It has started deploying e-voting software in the countries where permission is not required or logistic and administrative arrangements are already in place.
The Election Commission of Pakistan Secretary, Ishtiak Ahmad Khan, told Dawn that a committee had already been formed to propose amendments in the law required to facilitate voting by overseas Pakistanis.
He said a draft bill would shortly be sent to the Ministry of Law for the promulgation of an ordinance by the president.
Sources in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said letters had been sent to authorities of respective countries seeking permission for allowing gathering of voters at polling stations to be established there and replies from the host countries were awaited.