Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar has expressed wonder on why law giving voting rights to overseas Pakistanis has not yet been passed by the parliament.
He also questioned why overseas Pakistanis are being discriminated and expressed amazement over parliament’s refusal to give them the right to vote.
The government representative– Additional Attorney General Waqar Rana– told the three-judge bench, headed by the Chief Justice, that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has conveyed, “giving right of vote to overseas Pakistanis is not possible.”
The bench adjourned the hearing till next week.
Next elections are due in summer.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party on Tuesday approached the Supreme Court to grant millions of overseas Pakistanis (9 million according to an estimate) settled in 159 countries across the globe the right to vote.
PTI chief Imran Khan, Arif Alvi, Sardar Azhar Tariq and Ruxana Bhatti jointly moved an application requesting the apex court to declare that the “overseas Pakistanis are citizens of Pakistan and it is their fundamental right to utilize their right of franchise whether in Pakistan or abroad”.
The PTI pleaded the court to direct the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to allow them to cast their precious votes in the upcoming general elections.
PTI and Jamaat Islami — both parties having sway in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province where they rule in coalition, have been publicly demanding right to vote for Pakistani expats over the years. Many socio-cultural and thinking forums of overseas Pakistanis have echoed the same.
Overseas Pakistanis can exercise their voting rights through postal ballot and or physically visiting their missions abroad, say observers. However, its is a complex exercise marred by capability-capacity issue and lack of political will, they said.
When asked if they favor overseas Pakistanis be given the facility to vote in the upcoming elections, an overwhelming majority of those contacted on WhatsApp in Saudi Arabia, USA and Canada responded with a ‘Yes’ including President PPP Riyadh Fayaz Khan, Gholam Qadir Malla, an executive members of Overseas Pakistanis Advisory Council KSA, the Finance Secretary and Joint Secretary of of Riyadh-based Pakistan Investors Forum (PIF) Mr. Zahid Latif Sandhu and Mian Tanvir respectively, and Waqar Wamiq and Riaz Rathore, Founder and President of Bazm-e-Riaz respectively.
Amir Mohammad Khan, President of Jeddah-based Pakistan Journalists Forum (PJF) said, “those of us who are supporting the Pakistan economy should get the voting right but present government will not discuss this issue as the ruling party PML-N thinks majority of overseas Pakistanis support PTI.”
One financial professional Syed Nadeemuddin said “voting right should be suspended for those Pakistanis once they become non-residents in the country.”
Rashid Hussain Syed, the Toronto-based Dawn and BBC correspondent said, “Yes, most other countries provide this facility to their overseas citizens.”
A senior member and office-holder of PML-N Riyadh Mr. Rashid Butt, IT Pakistani-Canadian IT Consultant Amir Shahzad, Syed Basharat Aziz, Engineer & Entrepreneur Kashif Shahzad Bajwa, Hasnain, Azam Saeed Hashmi, and several community elders and leaders said they are in favor of facilitating the expats cast their votes in the upcoming polls from their overseas locations.