Voting rights for Pakistani expats soon

Updated 16 February 2013

Voting rights for Pakistani expats soon

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.

Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women driving

Updated 24 June 2018

Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women driving

  • They start their engines and hit the roads throughout the Kingdom
  • End of driving ban is crowning achievement so far of Saudi Vision 2030

Women throughout Saudi Arabia waited for the stroke of midnight, turned the keys in the ignition, fired up their engines — and hit the road to a bright new future.

It was the moment they had waited for since King Salman issued the royal decree on September 26, 2017, to lift the driving ban on women. 

Just after midnight on Saturday and in the first minutes of Sunday, Samah Algosaibi grabbed the keys to her family’s 1959 Corvette C1 and drove out of the driveway of her beach house in Khobar.
“We are witnessing history in the making as we look toward the dawn of a promising future,” said Algosaibi, the first female board member of Ahmad Hamad Algosaibi & Bros.

“As a businesswoman in Saudi Arabia, I am grateful for the women’s empowerment movement taking place. Today, I am honored to be sitting behind the wheel of change.”

Another woman to hit the road after midnight was Lina Almaeena, a member of the Saudi Shoura Council. “It feels very liberating,” she said about driving her mother’s Lexus.
Almaeena, also the co-founder and director of Jeddah United Sports Co, had exchanged her UAE license for a Saudi one. 

“I am thrilled!” Sarah Alwassia, 35, a nutritionist in Jeddah, told Arab News. “I learnt how to drive 18 years ago in the States where I got my driving license. I can’t believe that the day to drive in my own home town has come.”

Alwassia obtained her first American license when she was 18 years old in 2000, and had it exchanged for a Saudi license on June 6 in Jeddah. She explained that she is a mother, and this change provided comfort for her and her family. It also comes with various benefits, such as taking quick action in emergencies, and economic benefits such as saving money instead of paying for a driver when she needs to run errands. 

“I will be driving my kids to school and picking them up in comfort and privacy,” she said.

Women in the Kingdom commented on how this event is changing the course of their lives. “Independence is a huge thing for me,” Alwassia said. “Driving is one small part of it. I am very optimistic of the change that our loving country has made.”  

Alwassia applauds the efforts the country has made to support women. “I am confident that driving in the beginning will be pleasant, since our country has made all of the effort to support women and to protect them.
“I think our society was looking forward for this change, and I am sure the majority will adapt fast.

“I feel safe, our country did everything to make this transition pleasant and safe for every woman behind the wheel. I am really thankful to witness this historic moment and I am so happy for all the women in Saudi Arabia, especially my daughters.”
Sahar Nasief, 64, a retired lecturer from the European languages and Literature Department at King Abdulaziz University, said: “Nothing could describe my feelings. I can't wait to get on the road.”
Nasief received a very special gift from Ford for this occasion.

“They gave me a 2018 Expedition to drive for three days, a Mustang California Special,” she told Arab News.

Nasief obtained her Saudi license on June 7. She also holds a British license and two American licenses. “Now, I have my national license too,” she said. 

She also said the lifting of the ban provided a sense of relief. “I feel that I can practice one of my rights, and I don't have to live at the mercy of my driver any more.”
Society has been demanding such a change for years, “as it will take the physical and economic burden off most men.”
Pointing to the anti-harassment law, Nasief said: “I feel very confident especially after announcing the strict harassment law.”
Joumana Mattar, 36, a Jordanian interior designer, exchanged her Jordanian driver’s license and obtained a Saudi one on June 11. 

“I had my Jordanian license since I was 18 years old, and the moment I heard about the opening of exchanging foreign licenses, I immediately booked an appointment,” she said.
Mattar said she looks forward to the change in so many ways. “I'm finally in control of my time, schedule and privacy.” 

Mattar said she is both confident and anxious about the event. “I'm anxious only for feeling that I'm part of a huge first step for women driving in the Kingdom, but I'm confident also because of the support that I'm getting from my husband and family.
“Every first step is the hardest. Society is facing a huge change, but I'm positive because this change is done and supported by the government and Vision 2030.”

Mattar said she feels secure now. “I'm in control of any case I'm facing.”

• Download our free #SaudiWomenCanDrive mobile phone background designed by renowned artist Malika Favre: