Islamabad (January 29, 2018): Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar on Monday heard the voting right to Overseas Pakistanis case.
A three-member bench of the Supreme Court was hearing a case regarding the 16 petitions it had accepted on January 5.
Appreciating the efforts by National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in the ongoing development of a software that will empower overseas Pakistanis with the ability to vote in elections, Chief Justice said that this is a very good news given by NADRA’s chairman.
The petitions, filed by members of civil society, had appealed that the state set up appropriate infrastructure so that overseas Pakistanis — estimated to be at least eight million — can cast their vote in Pakistan’s elections.During Monday’s hearing, NADRA Chairman Usman Mobin told the court that “the matter [development of a software] has been brought under discussion with the ECP.”
“Work is underway on the software’s development,” he said. “It can [already] be tested on an experimental basis in mock elections and will be ready by the start of April.”
At this, the chief justice said: “This is a very good news given by NADRA’s chairman. He has given a very reasonable 10-week deadline.”“NADRA and the ECP should sit together and give overseas Pakistanis the gift of voting ability,” he added, while instructing NADRA to furnish in court a progress report during the case’s next hearing in a month’s time.
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) counsel reminded the court that a similar software was developed by former chairman NADRA in 2012 as well, at which DG NADRA responded: “That software was not operational. For this software, the overseas voters will have to visit the embassies.”
Justice Nisar questioned PTI’s role — or lack thereof — on the overseas vote issue as well as electoral reforms, saying: “PTI claims that it has the support of overseas Pakistanis but when the law of Elections Reforms was formed, where was PTI?”“The government took out a clause so we boycotted the legislation process,” senior PTI leader Arif Alvi replied.
During Monday’s session, Justice Umar Ata Bandial stressed the need for empowering overseas Pakistanis with their voting rights, saying: “The hearts of overseas Pakistanis beat for Pakistan.” To this, the chief justice remarked: “There are also some overseas Pakistanis who promised us but never came back.”
“Where is Husain Haqqani? Would he also get the right to vote? Why don’t we send him a notice to come here and face the Memogate case.”
The CJ asked for the Memogate file from the registrar’s office.