Right of overseas Pakistanis to vote not taken back, clarifies law minister

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May 27, 2022

Tarrar says the government is planning to give representation to the overseas Pakistanis in the National Assembly and the Senate

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Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarrer (c) speaks to media along with PPP's Faisal Karim Kundi (R) and JUI-F's Senator Kamran Murtaza (L) in Islamabad on Friday. Screengrab

ISLAMABAD: Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarrar Friday clarified that the government has not taken back the right of overseas Pakistanis to vote under the new law.

The federal minister was speaking to the media after "The Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2022" was passed by the Senate which revoked the amendments made by the PTI government to the Elections (Amendment) Act 2017 with regard to the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and i-voting.

The bill, after becoming an Act, will envisage conducting pilot projects by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in by-elections before using i-voting and EVMs in the general elections.

Under the amendment to Section 94 of the Election Act 2017, the commission may conduct pilot projects for voting by overseas Pakistanis in by-elections to ascertain the technical efficacy, secrecy, security and financial feasibility of such voting and will share the results with the government which, within 15 days from the commencement of an NA session after the receipt of the report, will lay the same before both the houses of parliament.

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Under an amendment to Section 103 of the Election Act 2017, the ECP may conduct pilot projects for the utilisation of EVMs and biometric verification system in by-elections.

The PTI leadership has criticised the Shahbaz Sharif-led government for introducing the new bill and accused the ruling coalition of snatching the rights of the overseas Pakistanis.

Flanked by PPP leader Faisal Karim Kundi and Senator Kamran Murtaza in Islamabad on Friday, Azam Nazeer Tarrar said overseas Pakistanis are precious assets of the country and that the government cannot deprive them of their right to vote.

He said the recent legislation is only aimed at enabling the ECP to devise a strategy to ensure the right to vote for overseas Pakistanis in a transparent manner.

"We have not withdrawn the overseas Pakistans' right to vote," Azam Nazeer Tarrar said, rejecting the claims made by the opposition party.

Tarrar said that the government is planning to give representation to the overseas Pakistanis in the National Assembly and the Senate and invited the PTI to join the deliberations because this would require an amendment to the Constitution.

The minister blamed the previous government for not following the rules and procedures in passing the electoral reforms bill. "The PTI bulldozed the bill through the parliament and did not take the Opposition into confidence."

"The ECP had raised 34 objections on the bill then and had mentioned that it needs to conduct pilot projects before implementation," Tarrar said.

He said that the elections are conducted by the Election Commission, not the political parties. The ECP had told the previous government that holding elections through EVMs or i-voting was not possible immediately.

"Time is required for electronic voting,” the minister said and asked the ECP to use the method according to its policy for EVM.

The Election Commission had also said that it should be done in a phased manner, he added.

"ECP can use EVMs whenever it wants to do."

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