Confusion over expatriate voting would have come to an end only if the chief justice had not stopped short of ‘ordering’ the election commission to make arrangements for e-voting in Friday’s hearing.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was half-way through reading the short order when Attorney General of Pakistan Irfan Qadir and Advocate Munir Paracha, representing the Election Commission of Pakistan, had to step in requesting the bench to grant the electoral body more time.
Requesting the three-member bench for more time to consult with the chief election commissioner, the lawyer and attorney general stated that with the given days at hand even if the system was somehow put in place there is a possibility that the votes might jeopardise the transparency of the polls.
“Any order asking for this exercise will further burden the ECP which is already busy with the elections which are just round the corner. Such an exercise might raise questions about the results and impartiality of the commission,” explained Paracha.
The stance of Director General Elections Sher Afghan that the commission has unanimously decided against installing the e-voting mechanism — developed by the National Database Registration Authority for the upcoming elections — as it could not satisfy the bench comprising of Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed.
It further annoyed the bench which observed that the ECP had a day earlier sent a draft for issuance of presidential ordinance to the caretaker prime minister to get the amendments in Representatives of Peoples Act made.
The DG ECP said the chief election commissioner CEC and other members of the commission had decided not to put in practice the e-voting mechanism for the 4.5 million oversees Pakistanis.
“You are playing a game with the court as ECP waits for legislation and the government, on the other hand, says the ordinance will be issued only after the technicalities were sorted out by the ECP”, remarked Justice Sheikh.
Justice Chaudhry said that the foreign affairs ministry was ready to extend facilities at diplomatic missions in different countries with the oversees Pakistanis ministry willing to extend all support and ministry of finance too waiting for orders to release the funds.
“It only shows the unwillingness and irresolution, on the part of the ECP and the federal government, to accommodate the expatriates, despite the fact that 20 years ago in 1993 the SC had declared that the Pakistani abroad has the basic right to cast votes,” the chief justice remarked.
The next hearing of the case was put off till April 29.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 27th, 2013.
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