ISLAMABAD: A three member Supreme Court bench on Friday directed the Election Commission of Pakistan ECP to take immediate steps to register the vote of overseas Pakistanis, keeping in mind that no overseas Pakistani should remain deprived of his right to cast vote.
The bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Sh. Azmat Saeed, was hearing a petition filed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan seeking arrangements for eligible overseas Pakistanis to cast their votes.
The chief justice said that the court was telling the EC for so many days that the time was very short, but it did nothing. The court directed the ECP to set up a separate desk at its office for dealing with the overseas Pakistani votes.
The court asked the Election Commission to take the guidance and assistance of Ministry for Overseas Pakistanis, Overseas Pakistanis Foundation OPF and National Database and Registration Authority Nadra for registering the vote of overseas Pakistanis.
The court also asked the ECP to complete the process as early as possible, keeping in mind that no overseas Pakistani should remain deprived of his right to vote. The court directed the attorney general to get assistance of the Information Technology IT Ministry and Nadra to devise an acceptable strategy to register the vote of overseas Pakistanis.
ECP’s counsel Muhammad Munir Peracha told the court that an amendment in the law was mandatory to grant the right and facility of casting vote to the overseas Pakistanis. The chief justice said at least vote of overseas Pakistanis should be registered.
To a court query, the counsel said that over 4.4 million overseas Pakistani voters had so far been registered. Justice Gulzar Ahmed said right of vote should be given to overseas Pakistanis as they send huge foreign exchange.
Attorney General Irfan Stated that government had not deprived any overseas Pakistani voter of his right to cast vote, adding that if any overseas Pakistani voter wanted to cast his vote, he could come to his constituency to cast his vote. ECP’s counsel stated there were over 7.5 million overseas Pakistanis.
He said no one had any objection or reservation over strengthening and empowering the Election Commission, however the amendment relating to it EC was yet to be made. Justice Sh. Azmat Saeed said this was under consideration since July 2012, however nothing had been done since then.
He said registration of voters in the electoral lists would not be possible after issuance of election schedule. The court directed the ECP and attorney general to take immediate steps to facilitate the overseas Pakistanis to cast their votes in the upcoming general elections. Later the hearing was adjourned till March 19.