ISLAMABAD: Overseas Pakistanis do have the right to vote, but absence of a suitable mechanism for the purpose will render it meaningless, at least for the upcoming general election.
This was what Law Minister Farooq H. Naek told the Senate on Friday.
He said the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had enrolled as voters 4.3 million Pakistanis living abroad who possessed national identity cards. But they would be able to cast their votes in the constituencies where they had been registered, for which they must come to Pakistan.
“The options of allowing them to exercise their right through postal ballot, or allow establishment of polling stations at Pakistan’s foreign missions had been considered, but a mechanism could not be finalised as yet and such a legislation would not be possible before the upcoming polls,” he told the house during the question hour.
He said there were many complexities involved and the government would not take any step which could affect the polls. He held out an assurance to the members that the general election would be held on time.
Answering a question, Mr Naek said the holders of dual nationality were not qualified to contest the polls under the existing law.
The minister said that electoral rolls, containing photograph and blank space for obtaining thumb impression of the voter at the time of voting, would be available with the presiding officer on the polling day.
Pointing out that 3.7m women voters possessing CNICs without photographs and biometrics had been enrolled as voters, Sughra Imam of PPP asked as to what steps had been taken to check misuse of their CNICs. She said some 12,000 such voters were there in her constituency -- NA-87 (Jhang) alone.
Mr Naek said he would take up the issue with the ECP so that effective steps could be taken to check possibilities of rigging. He said he would also like to discuss a mechanism for tallying the voter’s features with the photograph on the electoral roll.
Later, the house passed with consensus the fair trial bill, already approved by the National Assembly. Senate Deputy Chairman Sabir Baloch wanted to adjourn the house soon after the passage of the bill, but the members urged him to take up points of order.
Mr Baloch said he did not want to provide an opportunity to JUI-F to stage a walkout. Haji Ghulam Ali of JUI-F deplored that even after release of a video clip showing target killing of some religious leaders, the culprits could not be apprehended. He said this was enough to make people believe that the government and the agencies were involved in it.
Talha Mehmood of the same party said the protest against imposition of governor’s rule in Balochistan would continue. “If Tahirul Qadri can stage a sit-in in Islamabad, we can also stage a sit-in around the chair,” he remarked.
The second walkout was staged by the Awami National Party (ANP) against the failure of Sindh government to control the deteriorating law and order situation in Karachi. The walkout was announced by Zahid Khan.