Supreme Court (SC) has directed Attorney General (AG) to hold joint meeting with government, Election Commission, NADRA and other stakeholders for enactment of legislation on temporary basis to make overseas Pakistanis part of electoral process.
A 3-member bench of SC headed by the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry resumed the hearing of overseas Pakistanis vote to right case Friday.
AG appeared before the court and said Election Commission (EC) has regretted to make overseas Pakistanis part of electoral process. Federation has also given its reply that nothing has been done. Therefore, notification can not be issued in this situation.
CJP remarked “we have read replies of federation and EC and they have not said anywhere that they have reservations. We had asked NADRA and ministry of overseas Pakistanis and they had told that it was practicable. It is becoming incomprehensible if the government or EC is facing any problem.
AG said EC has replied in categorical terms that they can do nothing. If EC is saying that it can not be done then government is bound to comply with directions of EC under article 225.
Chairman NADRA said in the reply that NADRA is ready to include Overseas Pakistanis in the electoral process under E-voting system. E-voting soft ware has also been developed. NADRA has talked to finance ministry for provision of funds. It has also written letter to EC.
Foreign ministry has also assured the court that it is ready to get implement fully all the court’s orders in this respect.
Counsel for foreign ministry said consulate at Jeddah was contacted and the arrangements will be completed within a month.
Justice Azamat Saeed remarked had no slackness been shown the work would have been accomplished so far.
Dr Sher Afgan on behalf of EC said “we had convened meeting a day before and chief election commissioner has given his stance.
CJP observed “ it is job of EC and not the government to provide facilities to the voters. It is your duty. Pakistanis living here and overseas Pakistanis have equal rights.
Sher Afgan said “ EC has said that no hasty step be taken to implement it. Time is short and if the law is passed within 12 days then more difficulties will surface.
CJP remarked “ think over it. We will issue orders in this respect and you will have to do it. If you don’t comply with the orders of the court then we will see it. We have kept the EC fortified. Extraordinary importance will have to be given to overseas Pakistanis. If we don’t do for them, then for whom we will do. No one will be allowed to encroach upon the right of overseas Pakistanis. Give them right to become part of electoral process.
Justice Gulzar remarked “ you could have done it five months before had you willed so.
Sher Afgan said it was matter of legislation, which was not our job.
CJP remarked “ if the matter is of public interest then ordinance can be promulgated. If there is intent to do work then it is done within a few hours and if it has not to be done then two years are also not enough.
Sher Afgan said “we have 849 constituencies with 15 to 20 candidates in every constituency.
Justice Azmat said “ if there is an egg of a hen then omelet will be made out of it. You don’t want to do the work. It is not so much difficult work.
Sher Afgan said that postal ballot papers method was found the easiest but it could not move forward for want of legislation.
CJP remarked “ if you say we may adjourn the other cases. We gave you ample time. We can not stop our pen due to your problem. So much leniency was shown but even then you are not budging. This exercise is running since 1993. May be your stance is correct but some one will have to take the responsibility. Government or EC, one of them will have to take the responsibility.
Justice Gulzar inquired from Sher Afgan “ what have you done with regard to legislation. Had you worked out any draft or otherwise?
Sher Afgan said “We had preferred ballot paper in the perspective of legislation.
Sher Afgan said Nawaz Sharif regime did nothing in this respect as “we had asked them to do.
CJP remarked “we are not with any side politically. We have to give decision in accordance with law and constitution. Bangladesh and Afghanistan have extended facility to their citizens.
CJP observed “ maintaining status quo is easy but going against it is extremely difficult job.
CJP said “ history will tell us that twenty years have been elapsed but right to vote has not been given to people. We are not looking forward to any one. We have to do our job.
CJP remarked “ who are we and you. How can we deprive the people of their fundamental rights. We will have to see law and constitution. Twenty years were given to you but nothing was done. If we give you orders even then nothing will happen.
AG said “ we are trying court’s orders are complied with. Unfortunately it is not possible to do so after decision which has been given by EC. . There should be no clash between the EC and the court. EC is an independent and autonomous institution. You cannot interfere in its affairs. No human rights matters are involved in these petitions. The petitioners are wasting the time of court and they want that confrontation takes place between judiciary and EC. These petitioners have no locus standi to talk about any right of overseas Pakistanis. We are with the findings of EC. They don’t want any haste is shown. Implementing court’s orders stands ruled out of possibility for EC. We have to see if court’s orders were within the ambit of constitution and law or otherwise. Law has given independent mandate to EC which should be respected. Legislating is not domain of this court. Let legislative institution resolve this problem. Article 2-A clearly stipulates that elected representatives will run the affairs of the state. The court will have to wait. When they come they will decide about it.
CJP remarked if the order would have been given one year before, this would have been implemented.
The hearing of the case was adjourned till April 29.