After granting voting rights to overseas Pakistanis earlier this year, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is now finding it impossible to implement the decision, a commission official told The Express Tribune on the condition of anonymity.
“It was our utmost desire to grant voting rights to the overseas Pakistanis in the upcoming general elections but despite our best efforts the idea remains unpractical,” the official said.
“We will continue to look for a solution but it is our assessment that the scheme can’t be feasible; at least for the upcoming general elections,” he added.
After lengthy deliberations with stakeholders over the last six months, the ECP concluded that giving the right to vote to overseas Pakistanis will be highly expensive and cannot be supported by the commission’s budget.
Besides the budget, logistics have also proven to be a major hurdle. Establishing polling booths with the required polling staff worldwide turned out to be too difficult, as did the supply of secret ballot papers in each and every city where overseas Pakistanis are based, in time for the elections. It was also observed during deliberations that such a facility was not available to the citizens of any other country.
Pakistan Peoples Party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Awami National Party, Tehreek-e-Insaf and Muttahida Qaumi Movement have a potentially strong vote bank in the US, Europe, the Middle East and some African countries, and are keen for the policy to be implemented. Overseas Pakistanis are also a major source of donations for some of the political parties that have been advocating voting rights for their overseas-based political supporters.
All political parties will be taken into confidence at a meeting in Islamabad on September 27. ECP officials will also brief parties on the arrangements made so far for the next elections, scheduled for 2013.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 12th, 2012.