Overseas Pakistanis may win postal voting right
By Irfan Ghauri
Published: January 18, 2012
Overseas Pakistanis will now be allowed to cast their vote in the upcoming parliamentary elections through postal ballots, sources privy to the development told The Express Tribune.
The decision has been taken by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), which will now approach the ministry of law to seek necessary amendments in the relevant election laws, the sources revealed.
“All overseas Pakistanis above 18 years of age, having national identity cards for overseas Pakistanis would be eligible to cast their votes for the candidates in their native constituencies from next election,” an official of the ECP disclosed.
Responding to a query, he said those having dual nationalities will also be eligible to exercise their right to franchise in the next elections. According to the official, the current law only bars dual nationality holders from contesting polls but it does not stop them from voting.
“Various proposals were discussed during recent meetings of the commission regarding the procedure for polling of these voters but the most viable option we have found so far is voting through postal ballots,” the official associated with this project disclosed requesting anonymity.
The right to vote for overseas Pakistanis had been a long-standing demand of different political parties — once implemented, this would have significant impact on the election results in constituencies from where a large number of Pakistanis have migrated to other countries.
The ECP official said since Pakistanis live in over 52 countries across the world, it would not be feasible to establish polling stations for them in their current place of residence.
“The decision has been taken on our part. Now it will be up to the law ministry and parliament when they ratify this,” he said.
To take political parties on board, the commission has called a meeting of all stakeholders including political parties, civil society and the media on January 23. ECP Secretary Ishtiaq Ahmed Khan’s office confirmed the details of the meeting.
An official statement said that during the day-long meeting “detailed presentations will be given to participants with a view to sharing vital tasks to be completed before the next general elections and to elicit their valuable views on some developments taking place so that all the stakeholders are on board”.
The key points on the agenda of the meeting include the following:
Permanent polling stations:
The commission will apprise the participants about its decision to allocate permanent polling stations, a list of which would be displayed on their website for public information.
Among other items, the commission will ask participants to give their suggestions for local bodies which are virtually redundant since the 2002 district government ordinance lapsed in 2009.
The commission is now short of election symbols due to the registration of many new parties and deletion of ‘derogatory’ symbols from its list. The meeting would consult participants on the newly-proposed symbols.
Law enforcing agencies under DRO:
The commission has also decided that in the next elections district election security committees would be established in every district which would be headed by the district returning officer. He would either be an employee of the ECP or a government servant of grade 19. This according to the ECP would minimise the chances of misuse of local police by influential candidates.
Code of conduct and political finance:
Preparation of a code of conduct for political parties, candidates, media and other stakeholders will be deliberated in the meeting. The meeting will also discuss different options to control or at least regulate election expenses.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 18th, 2012.