ISLAMABAD - After a meeting with all the stakeholders, the attorney general for Pakistan on Monday informed the Supreme Court that allowing overseas Pakistanis to exercise their right to vote in the upcoming general elections seemed impossible.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry stated the court would not send any bill or suggestion to the legislative body, adding that Parliament had the wisdom because parliamentarians contested elections and had the experience. The court also made it clear that in every decision, the election commission’s integrity and transparency of the elections should not be compromised.
During the proceedings, AGP Qadir said, “I had a meeting in my office with the representatives of the Election Commission of Pakistan, Ministry of Law and Justice and the petitioner. I have reasons to believe that it will not be possible to ensure that the Pakistanis abroad cast their votes in the 2013 elections.” He said that a 20,000-men force would be required to carry out this process outside the country. He, however, stated they were not going to give it up as the right of vote was a vested right of the Pakistani expats.
The AGP was responding to the remarks of Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed who said although it might be difficult to get workable steps, the right of casting vote could not be denied to a good number of Pakistanis living abroad. The judge observed that everyone understood that it was not an easy task.
Qadir was asked by Justice Chaudhry that whether it was not possible to debate this matter in Parliament.
Counsel for the applicant, Mian Abdul Rauf, told the court that he had drafted a proposed bill for giving right of vote to the overseas Pakistanis. The court, however, told him that legislation was the issue of Parliament as parliamentarians could better understand about this matter. The AGP assured the court he would take up this matter with the authorities concerned soon. The hearing of the case was adjourned until March 11.
Over 7.5 million Pakistanis are living abroad, of which 4.4 million have national identity cards for overseas Pakistanis.
At present, over 1.6 million Pakistanis living in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 1.3 million in the United Arab Emirates, 0.364 million in the United Kingdom, 0.266 million in Oman, 0.13 million in the United States, 94,000 in Kuwait, 79,000 in Bahrain, 71,000 in Qatar whereas a large number of Pakistanis have been residing in Malaysia and other countries.