Right of vote for Overseas Pakistanis

THE Supreme Court has directed the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to develop software within ten weeks for enabling the overseas Pakistanis to cast their votes in the upcoming general election, scheduled to be held this year. Hearing the case a three-member Bench of the Apex Court asked the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), which is one of the petitioners as to why the party did not raise this issue of voting rights for overseas Pakistanis in Parliament adding that is not the job of the judiciary to take cognizance in the matter.
Some parties are pushing the idea of voting rights for overseas Pakistanis starting from the coming general election and several petitioners have approached the Supreme Court to decide the matter. The court has so far not given a verdict to make voting by Overseas Pakistanis in the next elections as mandatory but its directions to NADRA to prepare a costly software within weeks indicates what the judgement could be. However, it is not the issue of legality or whether or not the Overseas Pakistanis should have a right to franchise as there is almost consensus on the issue but there are serious administrative and technological issues and barriers, introduction of the scheme without addressing those constraints could jeopardise the most important aspect of the elections i.e. their transparency and fairness. Online voting is, no doubt, easier and convenient, making it possible for any registered person to vote just through a few clicks. But the real problem is how to make the process secure and auditable for the masses. It is rightly pointed out that when you’re determining the future of a nation, even the smallest security flaw can have dire consequences. In addition, savvy hackers could potentially find ways to rig the outcome of elections, such as tampering with the way votes are submitted and counted or even cast votes for people who did not actually intend to vote. What’s more, without monitored polling locations, there’s no way to ensure that voters were not coerced into voting a certain way. It can also be difficult to prove the identity of the person who cast the online vote. We believe that it was because of these reasons that the Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms left the matter for further deliberations. Therefore, there should be no rash action that could cast doubt on the entire electoral process.

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