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ISLAMABAD: Scores of overseas Pakistanis, accompanied by close aides of Prime Minister Imran Khan, assembled at the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday, and submitted a memorandum with the electoral body demanding the provision of internet voting (i-voting) facility to overseas Pakistanis - and extended their gratitude to the PM and his government for recent parliamentary legislation that grants voting right to millions of overseas Pakistanis.

The participants were led by Chairman Pakistan Overseas Forum Shahid Ranjha. Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, Parliamentary Affairs State Minister Ali Muhammad Khan, Climate Change State Minister Zartaj Gul, PM’s Political Communication Special Assistant Shahbaz Gill, among others, were present on the occasion.

Ranjha thanked the PM for the grant of voting right to the overseas Pakistanis. He alleged that ‘certain forces’ were ‘hatching conspiracies’ to deprive the overseas Pakistanis of their voting right.

“Despite that the legislation on voting right to overseas Pakistanis has been done, conspiracies are being hatched against implementing the Parliament’s decision,” he said.

“Politics is being played on this issue — we hope that the ECP will find a way out—to deal with the matter,” Ranjha added.

“Overseas Pakistanis would play a decisive role in the general elections,” he stated, demanding that overseas Pakistanis should also be facilitated in the local government elections.

The information minister said that nine million overseas Pakistanis would be “integral part of the country’s politics in the next general elections.”

Shahbaz Gill said: “When overseas Pakistanis demand voting right—they are denied it— and it is alleged that ‘they know nothing about politics in Pakistan’—we are well aware of the problems of overseas Pakistanis and would resolve them on priority basis.”

Separately, in a related development, the ECP, Tuesday, announced to have formed three committees led by its top officials over i-voting and EVMs.

According to ECP, the first committee comprises of Secretary ECP Omar Hamid Khan dealing with the scope of EVMs (Electronic Voting Machines) and i-voting.

The second committee is led by Additional Secretary (Admin) Manzoor Akhtar Malik that deals with finances regarding EVMs and i-voting.

The third committee is led by ECP Director General (Law) Muhammad Arshad regarding implementation of laws on EVMs and i-voting, and problems being faced in this regard.

Last Wednesday, in a landmark move, the federal government got the Elections Second (Amendment) Bill 2021 passed by the joint session of the Parliament. This legislation grants voting right to overseas Pakistanis besides providing for the introduction of EVMs in the general elections.

The move has been widely lauded by overseas Pakistanis and public circles in Pakistan.

However, just a day after the passage of Elections (Second Amendment) Bill 2021 by the Parliament, the secretary ECP said on Thursday that the electoral body was ‘unsure’ whether or not the 2023 general elections would be held on the EVMs.

He disclosed this in the meeting of National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Law and Justice chaired by Riaz Fatyana from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). The secretary faced a number of tough questions regarding the efficiency of EVMs, lack of preparation by ECP to ensure timely launch of EVMs, issues related to transparency and related queries.

“There are challenges regarding EVMs. Whether these machines would be used in the general polls—nothing can be said at this point,” the secretary said, adding that three to four more pilot projects related to EVMs were required to be launched to test the efficiency of these machines.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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