Overseas Voting Rights: Expats have Reservation with the procedure
By Tanveer Khatana
Manchester: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) launched its i-voting website for 7.9 million Pakistanis living abroad to enable them to cast their votes in the by-polls. However only 7,419 overseas Pakistanis got themselves registered with the ECP to vote in the by-elections which were in 37 constituencies of national and provincial assemblies on October 14, according to an ECP statement.
Expats worked really hard to get this right but the interest from the Community was below par. This Correspondent spoke to people from different walks of life to determine what could be the reasons.
Ex Chairman board of Governors, Barister Amjad Malik Said,” There are multiple reasons due to which expats showed very less interest, first of all only voters holding national identity card for overseas Pakistanis (NICOP) and machine readable passports (MRPs) were able to register to vote, ECP need to understand this that not every one living abroad has MR Passport. Secondly over 7,400 registered voters were sent voter pass (password) on the email address mentioned in their online application for registration, through which they were able to cast their votes on election day. This again is not very good procedure as not many people can use this complicated system and the website wasn’t user friendly either. Thirdly the whole campaign should have been supported by local Counsalate’s, workshops etc should have been organised in Community Centre and mosques but sadly nothing was done. The major factor was the statement of ECP that they will determine if they want to consider the votes cast in the final results.
People lost interest as no right to vote was given in the general election and in by election, time and interest lessened. The voter and candidate relation could not be established. There was disparity between classes of voters from USA, UK to GCC countries. All these factors were the reasons behind not many people casting their votes”.
Journalist Zahid Noor Said,” I was expecting political parties to run campaigns for their candidates but the interest was very poor. People only knew they have voting Right but they never knew how to cast the vote, ECP and other agencies should have ran awareness campaigns, the gap between voters and Candidates was also a major factor, Our comunity has this mentality of not voting until they are asked”.
Lawyer Raja Zeeshan Said, “ECP claims that they had defined the complete procedure after being ordered by the Supreme Court to provide internet voting facility to the overseas Pakistanis. However they have failed miserably as it was a hasty move with so many complications, the ECP initially said it was just complying with the court orders. However, it later said that it was not moving in haste and said the political parties should hail the initiative. But it seems it was just to get the credit that overseas voters were given right, no basic study was done prior to voting or procedure”.
Overseas voting Right is a major achievement, but many believe that the procedure needed to be simple,postal ballots should have been introduced, which people could have sent to their local embassies or for those who can’t exercise their right of voting online or through postal ballot should be given a facility to vote at Local Counslate. If Government Of Pakistan And ECP are willing to give expats a genuine right of voting, they should take input from expats on simplifying the procedure.