ISLAMABAD: The top court has directed the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to develop software within ten weeks for enabling the overseas Pakistanis to cast their votes in the upcoming general elections, scheduled to be held in June this year.
The Supreme Court’s three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, issued this order on Monday as it resumed hearing on petitions seeking the right of votes for the overseas Pakistanis.
During the hearing, NADRA chairman told the bench that it would take the authority three-months [12 weeks] to develop the software. However, the bench gave NADRA 10 weeks to present it. The bench also suggested that the software should be tested in a mock election in April.
The chief justice told the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) secretary that the heavy responsibility of holding the general elections lied with him. Justice Umar Ata Bandial, a member of the bench, also remarked that “the hearts of the overseas Pakistanis beat with their countrymen here”.
The CJP earlier asked the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which is one of the petitioners as to why the party did not raise this issue of voting rights for overseas Pakistanis in the parliament. “It is not the job of the judiciary to take cognizance in this matter,” he added.
The PTI counsel Chaudhry Faisal Hussain told the bench that the party had raised the matter ‘everywhere’, but had to approach the apex court after the government refused to take up the matter.
The PTI leader Arif Alvi also appeared before the bench and said the party tried its best to get the provision of voting rights for overseas Pakistanis in the Election Reforms Bill.
“And we boycotted the voting when we found out that the provision of voting by overseas Pakistanis had been removed from the bill,” he added.
The PTI’s counsel said NADRA former chairman had developed software in his tenure and it could still be utilised. However, the NADRA’s representative said they were trying to evolve new software wherein overseas Pakistanis would not be compelled to come to Pakistani embassies to cost their vote.
Hearing of Memogate case likely to be resumed
During the hearing, the CJP sought from the SC registrar files of the Memogate case in which Pakistan former ambassador to US Hussain Haqqani was accused of sending a secret ‘memorandum’ to the US officials during Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) last government.
The memo was sent to the Obama administration through Pakistani-American business tycoon Mansoor Ejaz after killing of al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad by the US Special Forces in 2011.
The memo leveled several allegations against high ranking civil and military officials. Later, the former premier Nawaz Sharif had moved court on the issue along with several other complainants.
No hearing of the case has held since June 2013, when a larger bench of the Supreme Court directed the then government to use all legal and constitutional measures to bring back Haqqani, who has gone into self-exile in the US.
During the hearing, the chief justice lamented that Haqqani had promised to the court that he would return to Pakistan and appear before the court but he never turned up.
“Whether Hussain Haqqani should also be given the right to vote? Should the court not summon him,” the CJP asked as he ordered the registrar office to present the Momogate file for fixing of next date.
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