ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court on Thursday expressed confidence that the Election Commission of Pakistan and other government departments would finalise procedure to facilitate overseas Pakistanis so that they could exercise their right to vote in the upcoming general elections.

ECP Director General Syed Sher Afgan appearing before a three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, said that a meeting was convened in the ECP, which was attended by him, the attorney general of Pakistan and other government departments.

Submitting a report in the court, he added that certain formalities including minor amendment and permission from a few countries was required to grant overseas Pakistanis voting right. Attorney General Irfan Qadir, appearing on behalf of the federation, said that minor legislation could be done by passing an ordinance.

 He said that Nadra has the data of overseas Pakistanis as almost all of them have NIC and machine readable passports therefore there is no issue of wrong in the e-voting.

The attorney general said that everything was tabulated. “If little effort is made, the right of voting for overseas Pakistanis is possible and there is no big risk of fake voting.”

Sher Afgan briefed the court about the difficulties of making arrangement.

He said that it would take 3 to 4 weeks for getting visa for polling staff. He, however, said that the ECP would take decision in the light of the apex court order.

The ECP official said that a committee would be constituted to prepare the legislation, which would be sent to the Law Ministry. He said that 10 countries were selected where majority of Pakistanis reside. “Out of 4.4 million Pakistanis living abroad, 3.5 are residing in Middle Eastern countries and of them 2.9 million are in Saudi Arabia.

He briefed the court about the problems of arranging polls abroad. “In Saudi Arabia 1 million Pakistanis do not have machine readable passports. The expats have to get themselves registered at the Pakistani embassies in Middle Eastern countries.

The chief justice said that the overseas Pakistanis are an asset for the country and denying them the right to vote is a grave injustice.

The Court, asking the ECP and other government departments to finalise the procedure to facilitate overseas Pakistanis for casting vote, adjourned the hearing for 10 days.