The News report by Mumtaz Alvi
The Middle Eastern countries have refused to allow the expatriate Pakistanis to poll their votes in the May 11 general election, it has been learnt. Meanwhile, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday failed to devise a mechanism to allow the expatriate Pakistanis to poll their votes in the May 11 election.
A closed-door meeting, held at the ECP Secretariat here, could not decide as to what kind of voting format would be followed if the expatriates got the voting right. Options like the use of ballot paper or the Internet are available to the commission to consider.
The meeting was attended by the four Election Commission Members (ECMs) Riaz Kayani, Shahzad Akbar Khan, Roshan Essani and Fazlur Rehman, Interim Minister for Law and Justice Ahmer Bilal Soofi and Caretaker Minister for Science and Technology Dr. Sania Nishtar, ECP Secretary Ishtiak Ahmad Khan, Chairman National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) Muhammad Tariq Malik, and sectaries of the ministries of foreign affairs and interior.
Requesting anonymity, a participant of the meeting told The News that one vote of an overseas Pakistani could cost $20-25 to the national exchequer. He said the Indian nationals exceed Pakistani expatriates working abroad in terms of numbers, but despite that they were not given the voting right due to financial, legal and logistic aspects of the exercise. The forum will again meet on Wednesday (today), possibly in the afternoon, to take a final decision on the piece of legislation and other related matters.
It’s learnt that Middle Eastern countries including Saudi Arabia, where some 1.6 million Pakistanis live and work and another 1.5 million in the United Arab Emirates were not prepared to allow the government of Pakistan to go for such political activity.
Though the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has received positive signals from the European countries, some issues need to be discussed with the authorities of these countries. Talking to media persons after the meeting, Soofi said they were quite hopeful of giving the voting right to overseas Pakistanis. However, he insisted that the voting facility would be provided only after the countries where they lived gave a green signal in this regard.
He said chairman Nadra had given a briefing after which all aspects of the subject were deliberated upon. He said the meeting felt the need for making legislation to this effect adding a final decision would be taken on Wednesday.
The minister said the exercise with regard to the participation of expatriates in the polling process was continuing and noted that the interim government, the ECP and the Nadra were cooperating on the matter.
“Voting right will be granted to overseas Pakistanis where they will be allowed by the host country and the government will fulfill its responsibility thereon,” he pointed out.
Tariq Malik informed the meeting that the data of all expatriates had been collected and noted that now it was to be seen how ballot papers would be transported to these countries to enable overseas Pakistanis to exercise their right to vote and how they would be brought to the Pakistani embassies.
Soofi said the meeting also discussed possible threats to the contesting candidates and how they would be provided security.To a question, the minister said some countries had expressed their reservations about allowing the overseas Pakistanis to vote. However, he did not name any country.Dr. Sania Nishtar said they were confident of reaching some conclusion in the Wednesdays’ meeting.