Expats disappointed e-voting for overseas Pakistanis unachievable for 2018 elections

NADRA, in collaboration with ECP, introduced “i-Vote” in April for expats. (AFP)
Updated 08 June 2018
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Expats disappointed e-voting for overseas Pakistanis unachievable for 2018 elections

  • E-vote system to be tested during by-polls
  • Online voting system not ready, says ECP secretary

ISLAMABAD: Some 7.9 million Pakistanis living abroad will not be able to vote in the 2018 general elections following the Supreme Court’s decision on Friday that deployment of an e-voting system in haste would be harmful. 
Expats have expressed disappointment at the decision.
“I feel like I have been stripped of my basic right in determining a leader I would associate my identity to. Being a Pakistani citizen residing aboard and not able to vote does not benefit me or the person I intend to vote for,” said Sonum Asad, speaking to Arab News from the US. 
Mehroz Adil, from the UK, told Arab News: “Every year false promises are made to the nation and nothing is validated. I honestly feel my vote would not make a difference” since “I am not given the right to do so.”
A three-member judicial bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, resuming a court hearing on the viability of electronic voting for Pakistani expats, was told by politician Imran Khan’s lawyer Faisal Chaudhry that implementing an e-voting system was unattainable given the short period of time available. Elections are scheduled for July 25.
Secretary of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Babar Yaqoob Fateh Muhammad told the apex court that an evaluation of the e-voting project by professionals suggested that “more work over the online system is required” and “at the moment” expats cannot be extended the “voting facility.” 
An international feasibility study of the untested voting system had suggested holding trials before giving the public access, the ECP secretary said at an earlier court session attended by Arab News.
Nisar said: “It is correct that this procedure is not possible right now. I tried to provide this facility to the overseas Pakistanis. But it will cause an immense loss at this point.” He added that “the e-voting process can be reviewed during by-polls” but the task force findings on non-implementation of the online voting system is to be made public.
The court had decided to form a task force after hearing experts and lawmakers raise objections and fears about rolling out the country’s first online voting system for overseas Pakistanis in a matter of weeks. 
Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed told Arab News that the suggestion for the task force was his idea. Nisar was commended on the e-voting initiative, but asked the court to approach the matter cautiously.
Nisar had taken the initiative on petitioners' pleas to extend the right to vote to 7.9 million Pakistanis living abroad and ordered NADRA and ECP to devise a system.
NADRA, in collaboration with ECP, introduced “i-Vote” in April for expats. The judges quizzed NADRA on the voting portal’s security. NADRA said that measures against unauthorized access and known threats had been taken but foolproof security could not be guaranteed.
“There is no system that is 100 percent hackproof” said a NADRA official, and told the judges that a third party will need to evaluate and asses the system's fairness, integrity and security. The final product will cost about $1.3 million.
Experts from Pakistan’s three leading universities expressed their views on front-end visuals of the voting portal but were skeptical of the back end of the software, which required examination.
“This is a discredited model,” said Taha Ali from the National University of Science and Technology. “The world has moved away from this (voting model)” and gave examples of similar failed voting systems in the US, France, Germany and other countries.
Pakistan Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf Ali also cautioned the court and said that deliberations had to continue to ensure voter secrecy, stability of the system and ease of implementation.
Anwar Mansoor Khan, one of the main petitioners seeking overseas voting rights, told Arab News: “There are delaying tactics being played. They can implement this. It is not a problem but there is a problem where various politicians don’t want this to be implemented” who don’t have a vote bank abroad.


Kosovo returns families of militants from Syria

Updated 20 April 2019
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Kosovo returns families of militants from Syria

  • More than 300 Kosovo citizens, men, women and children, have traveled to Syria since 2012
  • Police said some 150 women and children, including around 60 children that were born in war zones, were captured

PRISTINA: Dozens of women and children, relatives of Kosovo militants fighting in Syria, were flown back home by plane on Saturday under heavy security.
“The planned operation for the return of some of our citizens from Syria has ended successfully,” Justice Minister Abelrad Tahiri said at the airport early on Saturday.
Details would be released later in the day, he said.
After hours at the airport, two buses with women and children were transported under police escort to army barracks just outside Pristina.
More than 300 Kosovo citizens, men, women and children, have traveled to Syria since 2012. Some 70 men who fought alongside extremist militant groups were killed.
Police said some 150 women and children, including around 60 children that were born in war zones, were captured as Daesh lost ground.
It remained unclear if all of them were returned on Friday. Neither the minister nor police gave any details if any fighters were also returned.
International and local security agencies have previously warned of the risk posed by returning fighters. In 2015, Kosovo adopted a law making fighting in foreign conflicts punishable by up to 15 years in jail.
Kosovo’s population is nominally 90 percent Muslim, but largely secular in outlook.
There have been no Islamist attacks on its soil, although more than 100 men have been jailed or indicted on charges of fighting in Syria and Iraq. Some of them were found guilty of planning attacks in Kosovo.
The government said a form of radical Islam had been imported to Kosovo by non-governmental organizations from the Middle East after the end of its 1998-99 war of secession from Serbia.