The announcement of Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) that overseas Pakistanis can now vote online for by-elections 2018 is a landmark feat that Pakistan has achieved. Expats can exercise their right to vote through iVoting, (Internet Voting) online voting system, in their respective constituencies from anywhere in the world. ECP deserves all the praise for making voting possible for overseas Pakistanis. However, at the same time, ECP needs to give attention to the concerns of experts and election observers who are sceptic about the security and efficiency of the innovation. If the possible hazards that the newly introduced voting mechanism cannot be solved and immediately removed, the whole exercise would be a fruitless effort.
For instance, the Internet Voting Task Force (IVTF) of Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has already identified security vulnerabilities. While the IVTF advised ECP not to use the e-voting mechanism, the ECP should make the system more secure by seeking the help of experts. The caution of IVTF should not become an excuse for denying overseas Pakistanis their voting right. Pakistan is one of those 100 countries worldwide that do not allow its expats to vote for the candidates they want to or lack facilities in this regard.
Besides security risks, there are some procedural discrepancies in the i-Voting mechanism as well that will make impact the voters turnout. One of many such reasons is the fact that many eligible overseas voters cannot use the Internet. So, seeking the help of another individual for the purpose not only questions the secrecy of the ballot; it will undermine the credibility of online voting. Anyone can manipulate an Internet handicapped person quite comfortably. All these factors together will contribute to lower turnout.
It is important for ECP to consider all such loopholes and find a solution for all these challenges before expats exercise their right to vote in the by-elections. For if the online system of voting fails in meeting the expectations of the experts, then any election conducted by this method can be called into question. This will result in undermining of one important democratic principle: all citizens should have equal rights, regardless of where they happen to be at election time. Pakistanis living abroad whose contributions in sustaining the fragile economy of the country are invaluable deserve to enjoy voting rights as much as any other citizen of Pakistan. Maybe the assertions of the ECP prove correct that the system is impregnable. However, ECP needs to rethink about the flaws in the online voting mechanism.