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The Pakistani national assembly approved a bill to ‘stop overseas citizens from voting’; Read more…

On Thursday, Pakistan’s National Assembly enacted legislation revoking former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s election reforms, which allowed foreigners to vote via I-Voting and electronic voting machines (EVMs). The Elections (Amendment) Bill 2022, introduced by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Murtaza Javed Abbasi, was approved by a majority vote in the lower house. Only the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) members voted against it.

Before presenting the bill, Abbasi requested a change that would allow the bill to be introduced to the Senate without first passing through the relevant standing committee. The measure will be sent to the Senate on Friday, according to Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper. Azam Nazeer Tarar, a minister in the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), called the bill ‘extremely significant,’ recalling that the ousted Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government amended the Election Act, 2017, allowing the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) and granting overseas Pakistanis the right to vote in general elections.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government has restored the Elections Act of 2017 to its original form, assuring free, fair, and transparent elections, Information Minister Mushahidullah Tarar said on Thursday. Two adjustments to Sections 94 and 103 of the statute are being made under the new bill, according to Tarar. These relate to overseas voting and the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs), he said.

An amendment to the Election Act suggests pilot projects for voting by overseas Pakistanis in by-elections to ascertain the technical efficacy, secrecy, security, and financial feasibility of such voting. It said a report would be laid before both houses of Parliament within 15 days from the commencement of a session of each house.

According to the law minister, the Pakistan Election Commission has also voiced concerns over the usage of EVMs. He did, however, clarify that the administration was not opposed to the use of technology and that holding elections with EVMs on the same day was ‘difficult’. ‘ We simply have worries about the misuse of technology, as the results transmission mechanism failed to favor a certain political party in the last general election,’ he stated.

He also refuted the notion that the modifications were intended to deny expatriate Pakistanis the opportunity to vote. ‘ Overseas Pakistanis are a valuable asset to the country, and the administration does not believe in robbing them of their right to vote,’ he added. Meanwhile, the PTI has fiercely condemned the action, calling it a ‘regressive and condemnable conduct’ by the government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sherif of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

‘PTI provided over nine million foreign Pakistanis the right to vote,’ PTI vice-chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi tweeted. This gang of thieves and thugs took it down today, disenfranchising a stunning number of Pakistanis and prohibiting the use of computerized voting machines. Ghous Bakhsh Mehr, a GDA politician, argued that EVMs were being utilized over the world and that Pakistan should at least try them. Details of the costs for the upcoming general elections were presented at the National Assembly session.

According to the electoral body, new elections would cost around Rs 47.41 billion, of which approximately Rs 15 billion will be spent on security. The cost of conducting electronic voting was projected by the electoral commission to be Rs 5.6 billion, while printing ballot papers would cost Rs 4.83 billion. Additionally, Rs 1.79 billion would be spent on polling staff training.


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