ISLAMABAD: The National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) has announced plans to introduce an electronic voting system to enable over 7 million Pakistani expatriates to vote in the country’s general elections, scheduled for August.
On Jan. 24, the Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered NADRA and the Election Committee of Pakistan (ECP) to setup a mechanism to grant the right of franchise to overseas Pakistanis in 159 different countries.
“Overseas Pakistanis will be allowed to vote on polling day after real-time verification through secret questions and multiple checks,” NADRA spokesperson Faik Ali Chachar told Arab News, adding that expats will be able to vote through their laptops, mobile phones or desktop computers.
The three-tier system, which includes voter registration and verification, vote casting, result compilation and audit of the polled votes, will be functional within four months, according to the authority. Chachar told Arab News the system will be “foolproof.”
ECP PR Director Altaf Ahmad told Arab News that overseas Pakistanis holding the National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis (NICOP) are already registered on the electoral rolls of their respective constituencies.
“We are fully cooperating with NADRA to develop the e-voting system for expats,” he said. “We are sure all expats will be using their right to vote in upcoming general elections.”
Political analyst Dr. Rasul Bakhsh Rais told Arab News that the recognition of voting rights for overseas Pakistanis is a major development, as their contribution to the country is almost equivalent to its total exports.
“All political parties will have to work hard to (win over) overseas voters through effective campaigns,” he said. “The motivation level of overseas voters will also be reflected in election campaigns within Pakistan.”
Rais added that the parties will also have to run campaigns to educate overseas voters on how to cast their votes on polling day, as the majority of them — especially those in Gulf countries — are not literate enough to use the e-voting system.
Pakistan’s political parties are upbeat over the development and have started devising their strategies to woo the maximum number of overseas voters.
“We have a large supporter presence in almost every country of the world and we are sure they will vote for bat,” said Dr. Arif Alvi, a National Assembly member of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, referring to his party’s electoral symbol.
He added that social media and local chapters of the party would be instrumental in reaching those supporters.
National Assembly member from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) party Junaid Anwar says his party has been working to reorganize its overseas chapters and may also start a membership drive in Gulf countries where the majority of expat Pakistanis reside.
“We know the votes of overseas Pakistanis will make a big difference in the elections and we will run effective campaigns to convince them to vote for lion” he said, referring to the PML-N’s symbol.
Pakistan People’s Party Senator Taj Haider told Arab News that his party’s chairman, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, would personally visit expats, especially those in Gulf countries, during the election campaign to win their votes.
Source Credit: Arab News