ISLAMABAD: While confusion prevails about the impact of overseas votes in upcoming elections, nearly 0.7 million overseas voters are trending in 20 hotly-contested constituencies where the victory margin was quite thin in 2018 general elections.
For the first time, Geo News gets access to official statistics, which revealed potential 20 districts of Pakistan collectively host over 2.7 overseas voters who could swing the elections in favour of any particular party in many constituencies, according to official figures. As many as 8.1 million voters are registered collectively in these constituencies. Nearly 10 million Pakistani nationals have had the National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis (NICOP), which entitled them to exercise their right to vote in upcoming elections from nearly 200 countries.
In its months’ long investigation and carefully crafted research, Geo News has taken key constituencies of four districts namely Rawalpindi, Gujranwala, Faisalabad and Sialkot as a sample where electorates have potential overseas voters who could make the difference in upcoming elections.
District Rawalpindi has had collectively 406,843 potential overseas voters in its seven NA constituencies. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and its ally Awami Muslim League of Sheikh Rashid Ahmed won six of these seats in 2018 and one seat went to Pakistan People’s Party’s Raja Pervaiz Ashraf. None of the contests were close and all saw a 10pc or more difference between winners and runner-up, except on NA-57, where Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s Shahid Khaqan Abbas lost with a margin of only 5pc votes to his PTI’s rival. If the overseas scenarios play out, then PTI could gain between 28,000 to 71,000 voters in the district and further strengthen its position. It would, however, depend on the candidate it fields and other ground realities, the same as Sialkot district where the PML-N had maintained a 47pc share in votes in 2008 and 2013, however, it got 12pc less in the same district in 2018.
District Sialkot has a total of 357,700 potential overseas voters in its five NA seats. Its NA-73 saw a victory margin of 1,406 votes in favor of PMLN’s Khawaja Asif, in the 2018 elections. The constituency has 93,372 potential overseas voters and different scenarios show that it could gain between 6,535 to 16,340 votes in the constituency. If these scenarios play out, the seat could tilt towards PTI but there are just too many variables for it to be certain. The PML-N has maintained its vote bank in Sialkot in 2013 and 2018, as well as the recent by-election. They have been winning all seats since 2008, with the exception of one that they lost to the PPP in 2008.
Another potential Sialkot’s constituency that could get affected is NA-74, where vote difference in percentage was only 2pc. In the remaining three constituencies, the difference was more than 15pc and it is unlikely overseas voters would be able to change that, unless of course they participate in huge numbers. Also if we apply the 10pc incumbency factor, the PTI would lose in its share of domestic votes as well, although the by-election in NA-75 Sialkot does not show that their vote bank has been dented by much.
Gujranwala District has six NA seats and is PML-N’s hub and they won all seats here comfortably in 2013 and 2018 and that seems unlikely to change with addition of overseas voters. The difference of votes between PML-N and PTI in the district was above 250,000 and it is highly unlikely to be covered by overseas voters.
The PML-N swept Faisalabad in 2013 with a vote share of 57pc, however, PTI dented its vote share in 2018 and reduced it significantly by 23pc compared to 2013. The PTI won six out of 10, while PML-N could win on only two. The difference in votes between both parties was around 156,000. Despite its 2013 clean sweep aside, Faisalabad cannot be considered a hub for PML-N as it only won three seats in 2008 as well. So the district has been on and off for the party. Overseas scenarios mentioned above are unlikely to have a significant impact on the results in the district.
PML-N’s MNA Zulfiqar Bhatti won his seat with a margin of 78 votes only in the last elections in NA-91, Sargodha. This constituency has 28,879 (5.6pc) overseas votes out of total 511,807 votes in this constituency, according to official records.
PTI’s MNA Khial Zaman won by a margin of 728 votes in Hangu, which has 77,563 expat votes, which is 25.4pc of total 305,209 votes. The NA-190 which has 69,637 NICOP (18.4pc) holders was a closely contested constituency where PTI’s MNA Farooq Khosa won by 129 votes. This constituency has 378,286 total votes in district Dera Ghazi Khan.
Awami National Party’s MNA Amir Haider Hoti defeated his opponent with a thin margin of 152 votes in NA-21, which has had more than 50,412 (10.7pc) overseas votes in the constituency, which has total votes of over 471,058 votes. PTI’s MNA Talib Nakai won by 249 votes in NA-140 which has total 15, 287 (2.8pc) expat votes in the constituency having total votes of 533,808 in Kasur while Muhammad Akram defeated his opponent with margin of 350 votes in NA-239 which has 43,239 (7.7pc) overseas’ votes.
Constituency of MNA Sahibzada Mehboob of PTI had over 11,961 (2pc) overseas votes where victory margin was only 538 votes in NA-114 Jhang in the previous poll. This constituency has total votes of 579,760. Naveed Dero of NA-215 grabbed victory with 568 votes by defeating his opponent in a constituency which had 7,960 (2.1pc) overseas votes of total 366,452 votes.
The constituency of Independent MNA Mohsin Javid Dawar has had 19.1pc (71,199) overseas votes in his NA-48, Waziristan, witnessed a victory margin of only 1,167 votes in 2018 elections. The constituency has a total 371,892 votes.
Prime Minister Imran Khan defeated PML-N’s Khawaja Saad Rafique with a margin of 756 votes in NA-131, Lahore, where this constituency has had 45,074 (11pc) overseas votes with registration of total 409,541 votes. Federal Minister Fehmida Mirza has had a margin of only 997 votes in her constituency NA-230, which has 1,365 overseas votes in Badin. Faisal Vawda of PTI had defeated PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif with a margin of 723 votes in NA-249, Karachi, where 15,025 (4.4pc) overseas’ votes were registered in 2018. This constituency has a total 341,394 votes.
The constituency of PML-N’s Khawaja Asif has had over 93,371 (17.3pc) expats in NA-73, which has a total number of 538,482 registered voters in Sialkot. Victory margin remained 1,406 votes in this constituency in the 2018 elections. State Information Minister Farrukh Habib witnessed a margin of 1,275 votes in NA-108, which had 29, 469 (6.1pc) overseas of 481,462 total votes in Faisalabad.
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