Voting rights for Pakistani expats soon

Jeddah: Irfan Mohammed

Published — Saturday 16 February 2013

Last update 16 February 2013 1:58 am

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In a twist in the electoral process, the Pakistan Supreme Court has directed the Election Commission of Pakistan on Thursday to make efforts to ensure that overseas Pakistanis can vote through the implementation of voter registration and establish voting facilities at Pakistani missions overseas.
The Pakistani community in Saudi Arabia welcomed the decision. Many Pakistanis say they are finally being recognized.
The Pakistan Tehreek-Insaf Party founded by cricketer Imran Khan had approached the court demanding the right to vote for overseas Pakistanis.
Fawad Choudary, Tahreek-i-Insaf Party’s coordinator for Saudi Arabia, welcomed the court decision and asked the government to expedite the process.
He told Arab News yesterday that all social workers and supporters of all political parties should support the Pakistan Embassy in Riyadh and the Consulate General in Jeddah so that they can organize a smooth polling process without disruption.
Khushnud Ahmed, a Pakistani business executive, welcomed the decision, but cautioned that the overseas Pakistani community shouldn’t expect immediate voting rights since it’s expected to be gradually extended to the overseas.
Mohammed Saleem, an engineer, said that it's time for educated Pakistanis to play their role irresptective of their political or personal affiliations and serve the interests of Pakistan.
Faisal Awan, a social activist and supporter of former President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, said that anything related to polling and Pakistan politics should be confined only to polling stations at diplomatic missions and not beyond.
He says that everyone should respect the law of the land.
Pakistani media reports said that the court directed the federal government to devise a mechanism for overseas Pakistanis to enable them to exercise their right of vote. The court ordered the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to assist the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for the registration of overseas Pakistani voters before the upcoming general elections.
The Supreme Court also gave several proposals for ensuring voting rights to the overseas Pakistanis in the upcoming general elections, as reports said.
The government has informed the court that a draft bill to grant voting right is ready and will be moved to the National Assembly.
A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry heard the voting rights issue and directed NADRA to ensure delivery of National Identity Cards for Overseas Pakistanis (NICOP) before the elections.
The court suggested that the government use all the Pakistani missions as polling stations to facilitate the expatriates living there to cast their votes in favor of their preferred candidates contesting elections in Pakistan.
The ECP, Ministries of Interior and Overseas Pakistanis were ordered to hold a meeting and devise a mechanism in this regard and submit its recommendations by Feb. 22.

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