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September 1, 2018

Overseas Pakistanis get right to vote after long struggle

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September 1, 2018

LONDON: Overseas Pakistanis have won the right to vote in Pakistani elections after a hard-fought battle of nearly 25 years, speakers said.

At a press conference here, various speakers said that the right to vote for overseas Pakistanis was secured after a massive and continuous struggle of 25 years, and it is the duty of the diaspora to protect its legal and constitutional rights.

Syed Qamar Raza, Chairman of the World Congress of Overseas Pakistanis (WCOP), said in the press conference celebrating the verdict of the Supreme Court of Pakistan in favour of overseas Pakistanis voting that a lot needs to be done to make the system fool proof, but the fact that the right to vote has been achieved shows a great stride forward. He said that the World Congress of Overseas Pakistanis was one of the petitioners hailing from the 14 countries outside of Pakistan.

“The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has announced that the votes of overseas Pakistanis will be registered from September 1st to 15th. NADRA was ordered to prepare the registration software by early September,” Raza said. WCOP’s counsel Barrister Dawood Ghazanvi was also present from Pakistan to sensitise the overseas Pakistanis on the importance of the apex court’s recent verdict.

He said: “The overseas Pakistanis will be able to cast their votes through I-vote mechanism on polling day in Pakistan as per electoral rolls. The ECP will be required to register overseas Pakistanis in their home constituencies for the upcoming by-elections in October 2018. On the polling day, overseas Pakistanis would log on to a website and enter their secret voter IDs, which will be communicated to overseas voters on polling day. After logging in, the voter would select a national or provincial assembly ballot option and select from a list of candidates for their constituency in accordance with their NICOP address.

Ghazanvi said that the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) has prepared a three-tier electronic mechanism--named the Internet Voting System for overseas Pakistanis – at a cost of Rs150 million. “The electronic system will be secured through a firewall, intrusion detection system, and intrusion prevention system. Nadra is making extensive efforts to make it hacking proof by working on its security protocols,” Ghazanvi explained.

The three-tier internet voting mechanism includes voter registration and verification, vote casting procedures, and results compilation and audit. WCOP Executive Director Arif Anis, who represented the overseas Pakistanis in the Supreme Court of Pakistan, shared the details of the verdict.

“WCOP has put the voting rights to the heart of its objectives and we have been pursuing it relentlessly since 2013. Now we shall trail the second part of the endeavour that is securing proportionate representation in the both houses of the Parliament of Pakistan to protect the legal and constitutional rights of the Diaspora,” Anis clarified.

He shared that the Chief Justice of Pakistan will visit the United Kingdom and few European countries to speak to expatriates to sensitise them on the water crises situation in Pakistan and to seek their help in constructing dams in Pakistan.

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