There is a constitutional requirement which makes it mandatory that the secrecy and security of the ballot paper must be ensured. All citizens of Pakistan residing within and outside the country have the right to cast their vote in free and fair elections conducted by ECP. However, it must be understood that national security and state sovereignty are sacrosanct and should never be compromised. Logistics in countries like the US, comprising over 50 states and having four contiguous time zones, is a hurdle — except perhaps in New York City or Houston where our consulates exist.
Recent hacking of high security institutions, including the Pentagon, have exposed loopholes in the otherwise smooth flow of information technology via the internet. Therefore, the sanctity of the vote cast by overseas Pakistanis via the internet from their homes cannot be assured. This right to vote for overseas Pakistanis cannot be given to those who have on oath pledged that they “absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any state, or sovereignty, of whom, or which, I have heretofore been a subject or citizen” and has further sworn to “support and defend the constitution and laws” of their newly adopted country. Such an oath binds the individual to “bear arms on behalf of the USA against all enemies, foreign or domestic”.
The Patriot Act passed by the US Congress binds all American citizens to this oath with severe punishment for individual and their family if they fail to perform their pledge. If our diaspora wants to vote, they must pledge a fresh oath of loyalty to Pakistan.
Malik Tariq Ali
Published in The Express Tribune, June 22nd, 2021.