Giving voting right to expats not feasible: Minister

| Body agrees on 13 constitutional amendments to reform electoral system

ISLAMABAD - Election experts, government officials and lawmakers yesterday concluded that giving voting right to overseas Pakistanis was practically impossible though lawmakers of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) stuck to politics of idealism insisting on giving rights to voters abroad.
The sub-committee of Electoral Reforms Committee was informed by officials of Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) that the mock voting exercise in Pakistani missions abroad went unsuccessful and proposed that participation of Pakistanis living abroad in election will be a futile exercise without any success.
The meeting was told that it took two weeks to receive the results of votes polled by 67 voters in seven Pakistani missions during the mock exercise. Voters had cast votes through postal ballots and email.
Minister for Climate Change Zahid Hamid who is also convener of the committee told reporters that Tuesday’s briefing by ECP and Nadra officials was evidence that the project of giving voting rights to overseas Pakistanis was not feasible at all.
He said that electronic voting machines badly failed in the mock exercise due to connectivity problems adding that majority of political parties in the committee did not sound in favour of the project.
But PTI lawmakers insisted that the Pakistani voters abroad could be enabled to take part in election adding the government should ensure that the overseas voters cast votes in elections.
According to Director General IT ECP, Khizar Hayat, the project was so complicated because there was no precedent in the rest of the world to be followed. He said majority of overseas voters were not familiar with internet or electronic voting machines.
Since the committee is supposed to make consensus on electoral reforms, it was proposed that ECP should hire services of technical expert in UNDP so that he could guide as to how millions of people abroad could be educated to cast votes using modern technology.
But Nadra officials on the occasion warned that exposing voters’ data to foreign nationals was a risky thing to do keeping in view the privacy rights of voters.
Convener Zahid Hamid said the meeting discussed in detail the code of conduct during elections and informed that the rules will be given legal status so that political parties follow the formalities.
He said final recommendations on the issue will be made in next meeting of the committee and the proposals will be forwarded to the main Electoral Reforms Committee.
Regarding the judgment of Supreme Court about declaring any election as null and void, the minister said the next meeting would discus as to how the election could be nullified.
As for as the case of caretaker government is concerned, he said the issue was not discussed in detail though the draft of the setup of interim government had been prepared by adviser to prime minister.
He said the committee had agreed on 13 constitutional amendments for reforming electoral system in the country adding, more recommendations will be forwarded to the parliament in due course of time.
To a question as to why journalists are not allowed to cover proceedings of the committee, Mr Hamid argued that it will be impossible to chalk out consensus on electoral reforms if media is allowed to sit in the committee meetings.
“We don’t want media to highlight the differences in the committee on various proposals. This way we will not be able to agree upon several issues. I am hopeful that the committee will soon agree on crucial constitutional amendments in near future,” he said.

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