ISLAMABAD: The first step to grant overseas Pakistanis the right to vote by registering them electronically has received a lacklustre response since only 3,700 voters have been registered so far.
The overseas Pakistanis will be given the right to vote through internet voting (i-voting) in 37 constituencies going for by-polls on October 14. It is estimated that there are 525,000 overseas Pakistanis from the areas falling under these constituencies who are eligible to vote if they get registered through internet-based system developed by National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA).
According to sources in relevant quarters, more than 6,000 persons have opened their accounts on the web solution designed by NADRA and around 3,700 have already become registered i-voters so far.
The registration option for internet voting is available with the official website of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). The registration process was initiated on September 1 while September 15 is the final date for this purpose. Only those people would be eligible to cast their votes in the upcoming by-elections who have been registered over here.
According to sources, during the first week, no hacking or technical issue surfaced and a lot of people are visiting the website since its launch. “Around 0.8 million people visited the website since its launching and about 150 people registered their complaints which were about petty sort of things like PIN issues and others and all these complaints were addressed accordingly,” said the sources.
The authorities are hopeful that more overseas Pakistanis would opt to register themselves with the web solution for I-voting in coming days since its conclusion.
The success rate of the initiative in the upcoming by-elections in the country would determine the fate of it and authorities later on would decide whether to hold general election of 2023 with i-voting or not.
“The overseas Pakistanis should participate in this process and they should register themselves on the web to become eligible for casting their votes in the elections,” stated the sources.
Earlier in 2016, electoral reforms committee had run this initiative on two occasions on experimental basis. According to sources, the results of these experiments were not very much encouraging as only 11 overseas voters registered themselves on the first occasion and 23 registered themselves on the later occasion.
The opposition parties including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz PML-N and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) have been opposing the idea of i-voting recently.
PPP’s leader Raza Rabbani recently had stated that the i-voting system being put into place is flawed from its inception and has the ingredients of becoming a tool in the hands of forces that may want to manipulate elections in Pakistan.
The PML-N is also opposed to the government’s decision to allow overseas Pakistanis to cast their votes through i-voting in the by-elections to be held in different constituencies of national and provincial assemblies next month.
Through a declaration issued after a parliamentary party meeting which was held recently, the PML-N stated that the government had taken the decision in haste and paved the way of “pre-poll rigging”.
Ruling party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) had filed petition in the Supreme Court of Pakistan for awarding the right to cast votes by overseas Pakistanis following which overseas Pakistanis were awarded this right. Following the directives of the authorities, the Nadra developed web-solution for this purpose which has been launched now.
Now the ball seems to be in the court of PTI led government to motivate the overseas Pakistanis and give them awareness so that most of them could register themselves digitally to become eligible to cast their votes in by-elections.