Justice Ebrahim, when will you tell us if overseas Pakistanis can vote or not?
This is a sincere request to our Chief Election Commissioner of Pakistan, Justice Fakhruddin G Ebrahim, to take emergency notice of the matter regarding voting rights of overseas Pakistanis.
Officials of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) have buried the issue by saying that bureaucratic hurdles are making it impossible to grant voting facilities to expats.
Currently, there are around 7.5 million Pakistanis abroad, and our economy is primarily running on remittances sent by them. Pakistan was ranked number ten for remittances in 2012, which totalled around $13 billion that year.
Due to meagre employment opportunities, many leave the country in search of a better livelihood so that their families back home can enjoy the luxuries of life. Had the remittances not been there, our economy would have faced a major slump due to considerable decrease in aggregate demand in the economy. Expats are thus acting as a pillar to support our country, and remittances sent by them function as a kiss of life to an otherwise dead economy.
Thus, I think that the people sustaining the economy of Pakistan also have full rights to choose its leaders too.
Secondly, each and every individual living abroad is an ambassador of his home country. Natives of a foreign country judge another nation by looking at the person belonging to it.
It is unjust to snatch the right to vote from a person who is a portrait of his state in another country.
Overseas Pakistanis are waiting for the upcoming general elections on May 11 as anxiously as those living here are. A friend of mine, studying at the University of Manchester, is so depressed about not being here at this crucial time in the political history of Pakistan; he said he would really like to come back to be a part of the change this nation is undergoing, to enjoy the election atmosphere and cast his vote. This, however, is not practically feasible.
This is just one example; I am sure that every patriotic Pakistani abroad is undergoing the same dilemma.
Though nothing can be done about missing the thrilling election atmosphere, at least the right to cast a vote and participancy rights in the process of change can easily be granted.
National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) has already prepared an online voting software. Holders of the National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis (NICOP) can go to the Pakistani consulate and cast their vote in their home constituency through this online service.
What I do not understand however is why the ECP officials are delaying its implementation?
Even the Supreme Court has given strict orders for ensuring that this matter gets resolved before the elections. In this era of technological progress, blaming logistics is ridiculous. Even a political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, was able to carry out its intra-party elections through telephone service, where a computer recorded message directed the voter on the voting process. If a small party can work a way out, it is impossible that the ECP, having many more resources, cannot.
The ECP’s past record has not been very clean. It was not able to stop rigging in the by-elections held a few months ago. Then the two major parties, Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), daringly carried out pre-poll rigging which was followed by the adventurous mood of the Returning Officers (ROs), whose questions were more appropriate for selecting an Imam for a masjid than an electoral candidate!
If the overseas Pakistanis are not granted voting facility, there will be no reason left for me to give the intentions of the ECP the benefit of doubt. If this does not go through in due time, then I’m quite sorry to say that Fakhruddin G Ebrahim did not meet my expectations.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.