ISLAMABAD: In line with a Supreme Court order, officials of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) asked National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) on Monday to start registering overseas Pakistanis as voters from next month so they could vote in the October 14 by-polls.

NADRA will enroll Pakistani expatriates who are over 18 years of age holding a valid National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis (NICOP) and Machine Readable Passport (MRP). The registration process is set to start from September 1 and last till September 15.

These prospective voters would be granted the right to vote in by-elections in 37 constituencies.

Experts oppose online voting for overseas Pakistanis

Most of these constituencies are the ones vacated by lawmakers who were elected from more than one seat. There are some constituencies where elections were postponed due to death of one of the candidates.

Supreme Court had ruled last week, allowing overseas Pakistanis to cast votes in the upcoming by-polls.

Prime Minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan had filed a petition in 2012, urging the court to allow overseas Pakistanis to vote in the country’s elections.

During last week’s proceedings at the Supreme Court’s Lahore Registry, the SC bench directed the ECP to coordinate with the NADRA to ensure fool-proof arrangements for the i-Voting system.

ECP Secretary Babar Yaqoob and Nadra Chairman Usman Mobin appeared before the court.

Yaqoob informed the bench that in accordance with the Election Act, rules had been framed for internet voting.

He proposed to carry out this exercise on experimental basis. But the CJP rejected his plea.

He observed that results obtained from i-voting should be included in the final tally of the by-polls.

However, i-voting results will be stored separately and taken out from the final count in case of a conflict.

In June this year, the SC had deferred the case until after the July 25 general election when it was informed that the idea could not be materialised because of shortage of time and the need for testing the software.

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A report compiled by a task force set up by the ECP pointed out various flaws in the proposed internet-based voting system.

The report said iVOTE categorically did not provide ballot secrecy as required in Clause 94 of the Elections Act of 2017 and Article 226 of the Constitution. “This shortcoming is inherent to this particular model of internet voting systems”.

“There is a very real possibility that votes may be bought and sold and coerced overseas in regions where the ECP has no mandate to investigate or prosecute such attempts.

“Users can easily mount attacks on the system whereby they can cast votes for whichever national and provincial seat they choose, regardless of their constituency. These attacks can be launched by anyone with moderate technical ability and can easily be automated to manipulate votes on a large scale.

“There is also a possibility of phishing attacks, whereby an attacker creates confusion in the minds of voters with fake and misleading email addresses,” said the report.