Islamabad: Despite claims by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) of having developed a software for overseas Pakistanis to participate in the by-elections, taking place next month on October 14, chances of such a system working are bleak.
The software is claimed to offer expat Pakistanis a much-awaited facility to cast their votes.
According to ECP sources, they taken some steps for this, but it’s still a long way from taking practical shape.
If used in a hasty manner, the software — developed jointly by National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) and ECP would fail — as in the case of the Result Transmission System (RTS) which failed during the July general elections, and give a bad name to the commission and the authorities concerned, the sources said.
On the other hand, seeing lacklustre interest among overseas Pakistanis in registering with the i-voting portal, ECP extended the deadline for overseas Pakistanis to register and be able to vote in the by-elections.
According to an ECP official, overseas Pakistanis have been asked to register as voters by the due date, so that they can exercise their democratic right to vote in the bypolls for 37 constituencies on October 14.
Only registered overseas voters would be able to use the i-voting system, the official added.
A letter had been written to the Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to direct Pakistani missions abroad to educate overseas Pakistanis on the registration process and extend to them all possible assistance to participate in the bypolls.
According to the sources, the ECP would prescribe a specific time window for overseas citizens to use the i-voting system. All eligible voters will cast their votes between 8am and 6pm — Pakistan Standard Time (PST) — on polling day.
The official said that overseas Pakistanis must have machine-readable passports, national identity cards and valid email IDs, to be able to register themselves as voters.
The ECP had, in partnership with NADRA, launched a website designed to help and inform overseas Pakistanis who wished to vote in the by-elections.
The i-voting system was a pilot project and after its first use on October 14, ECP will submit a report to parliament, which might then proceed to enact further legislation if necessary. The ECP official said they were expecting overseas Pakistanis to take advantage of the new facility, and that their cooperation was important for the success of the programme.
It would allow millions of Pakistani citizens living abroad to become part of the country’s democratic process, but the most important aspect was that the system came through without any problems, with foolproof security features.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan last month had said that his party had won its struggle for implementing the right to vote for overseas Pakistanis.
“Good news for our national asset, overseas Pakistanis and PTI’s struggle for their voting rights’ implementation has been won, as the Supreme Court has decided this must be done and directed ECP to ensure the same through electronic means,” Imran Khan had said on social media.