Justice Ebrahim, when will you tell us if overseas Pakistanis can vote or not?

Published: April 17, 2013

If overseas Pakistanis are not granted voting facility, there will be no reason left for me not to doubt the intentions of the ECP. DESIGN: EMA ANIS

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.


Osama Sajid

An undergraduate student at LUMS who is pursuing Economics, he is interested in reading and researching Pakistan's cultural and political issues.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Farhan

    If you’re requesting for a facility, it would be a better idea not to issue threats of withdrawing your approval (not that it matters to the good justice) and question the ECPs integrity while issuing the request.Recommend

  • Rayan

    You spoke my heart out…..Recommend

  • http://www.goodgovernanceforum.com Mumtaz Piracha

    As the Chairman of the Good Governance Forum, I fully endorse the demand of the overseas Pakistanis to enable them to exercise their constitutional right to vote in the upcoming general elections of Pakistan. Good Governance Forum is the first and the only interactive think tank on governance in Pakistan. Its also registered with the United Nations. We have been working on improving governance in Pakistan since 2007 with 5000+ network members in and out of Pakistan.

    We had proposed to the Supreme Court and the Election Commission to deploy customized Online Voting System to enable the overseas Pakistanis to cast their votes right from their computers at their homes or offices. We had prepared a complete proposal costing Pak Rs 50 million as compared to NADRA’s proposed system of Pak Rs 150 million. Our proposal was rejected by the ECP through a statement to the media without discussing it with us.

    NADRA’s proposed system required physical presence of the voters at the polling stations at the Pakistan’s Embassies and the Consulates abroad and, that too, in only 10- 15 countries. NADRA’s proposal has already been rejected by the overseas Pakistanis. It does not cover the entire overseas population on the one hand and involves a lot of travelling cost to the voters on the other.

    Online Voting System is already satisfactorily working in Brazil, Australia, Switzerland, Estonia, Norway and Canada. Its as safe and secure as the Online Banking across the globe.

    Mumtaz A. Piracha
    Founder & Chairman.
    Good Governance Forum.
    Email: [email protected]
    Web: http://www.goodgovernanceforum.com.
    Leading the Way to the Challenge of Change in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Parvez

    This quetion should have been asked of the last Zardari government or from the Musharraf government or the Nawaz government before that ………….. some 15 years .
    Justice Ebrahim has been there some 3-4 months and given a task with a very short time frame and tools that are obsolete, malfunctioning and deliberately kept so.
    The responsibility will rest with the Chief ECP but the blame, in my view, rests elsewhere. Recommend

  • expaki

    @Sajid ! when votes of people in Pakistan does not count and you think yours will be COUNTED? We are a nation with president by WILL and party as INHERITANCE. Do not dream my brother.Recommend

  • http://Lahore Iram

    @expaki: We will not quit unless we succeed.Recommend

  • Sana Malik

    As being an overseas Pakistani, residing in R.O.Ireland, i have waited for the decision of ECP impatiently and only saddened by the result. As it did not allow Pakistanis in Ireland to cast their vote in the upcoming elections. Large number of Pakistanis are living here and i am sure would have loved to cast their votes, although many have chosen to fly back home postponing work and education schedules (though not convenient for everone).
    I wish ECP could have included Ireland and other European countries whch are not in the list, because honestly large number of overseas support PTI and would vote for Imran Khan.Recommend