HomeNationalProspect of expats' participation in next general elections becomes brighter

Prospect of expats’ participation in next general elections becomes brighter

ISLAMABAD, May 5 (APP): Prospect of Pakistani expatriates’ participation in next general elections have brightened after the ordinance to give legal cover to the Election Commission of Pakistan to give overseas right to vote sailed through the federal cabinet on Tuesday.

Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain, after the federal cabinet’s weekly meeting, announced the other day that an ordinance, which was meant to empower the ECP to bridge legal lacuna had been accorded approval.

The landmark move, if materialized as planned by the government, is expected to
include around eight million overseas as voters and participate in electoral process with more than half residing in the Middle Eastern region.

The diaspora is further divided into two kinds as one belongs to emigrants who went abroad for blue-collar jobs whereas the other were dual nationals and have been settled there for decades.

The development is not only being hailed in Pakistan but also abroad as this is the long-standing demand of the Pakistani expats who have been massively contributing to the national development.

“Indeed, it is a historic initiative as the ECP has now get a legal cover to formulate the procedure for giving voting right to the overseas Pakistanis,” Former Federal Secretary for ECP Kanwar Muhammad Dilshad said while asserting that the national election watchdog was fully capable of taking steps and providing facilities to the expats in that regard.
The idea, he said, was first floated and debated in 1994 by the ECP.

Kanwar said he, during his stint as the ECP Secretary, had presented the complete project for expats’ voting rights before the then Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani in 2009, but it was rejected by all the stakeholders due to certain reasons.

He said a couple of years ago, the ECP had allowed the overseas Pakistanis to cast vote in a by-election on the direction of the apex court and made arrangement at different embassies for the purpose. The ECP spent Rs 150 million to ensure the expats participation in those by-polls, but only 117 voters turned up, he added.

The former secretary said now the time had changed as this was the era of digital age so it would not be impossible for the ECP to fully grant voting rights to the expats.

He said though, there was an issue of ‘secrecy of the vote’, but different ways could be explored to get the issue resolved.

Meanwhile, the overseas Pakistanis around the globe are appreciating Prime Minister Imran Khan for the initiative.

Pakistani-Americans have enthusiastically welcomed Pakistani government’s move to award voting rights to overseas Pakistanis in the next general elections, saying it was a “momentous moment.”

“As an American, it gives me immense pleasure to learn about being able to vote in the Pakistani election,” the head of American-Pakistani Political Action Committee (APPAC), Dr. Ijaz Ahmad, said in an interview with APP.

“As someone who grew up in Pakistan and still feels very close to our ancestral motherland, it gives me comfort that even living thousands of miles away we can take a part in the democratic process and have a say in electing the right candidates who will take our beloved country in the right direction and resolve so many of the issues that our fellow Pakistanis are dealing with back home,” Dr. Ijaz said.

Talking to APP, Muhammad Irfan, an expatriate from Saudi Arabia, said he fully believed in the PTI government that it would provide right to vote to the overseas Pakistanis before the end of its tenure.

He said the expats had been waiting for this initiative for several decades as they also love their country as did by those who were living with Pakistan.

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