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ISLAMABAD: Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif, on Saturday, floated a proposal to give representation to overseas Pakistanis in the parliament - five to seven seats that are reserved for them in the National Assembly and two in the Senate.

In a statement here, Shehbaz said this would make the overseas Pakistanis able to represent the diaspora in the parliament and to highlight their issues effectively.

"The PML-N endorses the overseas Pakistanis' right to vote in line with the principles of democratic ideals and principles. They have every right to register and cast their ballot in Pakistan during elections," Shehbaz said. The PML-N president's statement comes following the party came under fire by the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) over its objection to the proposed electoral reforms bill, which also proposes giving online vote right to the overseas Pakistanis. Shehbaz floated the proposal of allocating five to seven seats in the National Assembly and two in the Senate of Pakistan to overseas Pakistanis, adding that the process and preconditions would be decided by all political parties through a consensus.

"Overseas Pakistanis come to the country at the time of elections and vote as per the registration of their vote in the voter list," he further stated. He added that the required relevant legislation in this regard would also be possible with all parties on board, adding that on the basis of same formula, representation to overseas Kashmiris have been given in the Azad Jammu and Kashmir legislative assembly. The PML-N president said that overseas Pakistanis are a precious asset and pride of the country. "These eight million Pakistanis are the strength of the nation, who are contributing to the progress and development of the country," he stated, adding that the PML-N respects their contribution to the national development.

He said that his party wants that all issues concerning the overseas Pakistanis, including those related to land grabbing, should be addressed promptly, legally and justly as a top priority. "We respect their right to vote and want to ensure that they are facilitated and their problems are addressed. PML-N has always made efforts to achieve these "objectives" and would continue to do so," he added. He claimed that the PML-N has always valued and encouraged the overseas Pakistanis "not just through words but by undertaking practical actions".

He also said the previous PML-N government brought about major reforms in Overseas Pakistanis Foundation at the federal level and also established Overseas Commission in Punjab under which "role model" programmes were introduced in 36 districts.

"All these steps were aimed at immediate and effective redressal of any and every issues faced by the overseas community," he further maintained. Earlier on June 10, 2021, the PTI government hurriedly passed the Elections (Second Amendment) Act, 2021 and the Elect Amendment) Bill, 2020 along with 19 other bills amid strong protest by the opposition parties with PML-N secretary-general Ahsan Iqbal accusing the government of paving the way for rigging the next elections. To chalk out a joint strategy against the "one-sided" electoral reforms, PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, and JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, have recently agreed on convening an all-party conference (APC) soon.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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