Overseas Pakistanis get voting rights

Wednesday 24th November 2021 05:39 EST

Islamabad: Amid strong protests by the opposition, the Imran Khan-led coalition government in Pakistan managed to bulldoze amendments to the Elections Act, 2017 in the joint session of parliament, thereby allowing the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) and granting voting rights to overseas Pakistanis.

In protest, the opposition tore copies of the agenda and staged a walkout, chanting slogans against the PM and his government. The opposition and treasury members almost came to blows when the former tried to stop the proceedings of the joint session. Imran’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) is considered to be the sole beneficiary if overseas Pakistanis are able to vote through internet. There are approximately 9 million Pakistanis living outside the country and the incumbent PM is said to very popular among them. The voting turnout of overseas nationals is also believed to be much higher than in Pakistan.

“The new laws were passed to steal the next election,” Jamaat-i-Islami chief Sirajul Haq said. At the start of the session, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president and leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, Shehbaz Sharif, termed EVMs “evil and vicious machines” and accused the government of not being sincere in creating a consensus on electoral reforms.

Sharif claimed that the “selected government” wanted to introduce EVMs because it can no longer ask the people for votes. “There are always allegations of rigging during the elections. This is the first time in history that there are allegations of rigging before the elections,” he said. Pakistan Peoples Party chief Bilwal Bhutto Zardari said it was the first time in the history of Pakistan that a government tried to bring “unilateral” electoral reforms. Speaking about the EVM, he said even the Election Commission of Pakistan has rejected it after raising serious objections over the machine. He said the PPP will challenge the new laws in the Supreme Court. The ECP had earlier referred to various issues with the use of EVM, including lack of ballot secrecy, lack of capacity at all levels and lack of ensuring security and chain of custody for the machines. It also said that there would be no evidence available in case of poll dispute.

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