Islamabad - The Election Commission of Pakistan and officials of the National Database and Registration Authority have dismissed criticism relating to use of i-voting process for overseas Pakistanis in the October by-elections. 

Addressing a joint press conference here on Tuesday, the ECP Director General of Public Relations Nadim Qasim reiterated that overseas Pakistanis have the right to vote and that this was an effort that political parties should admire.

"The ECP is not acting in haste," he said: "it is fulfilling its constitutional responsibility."

The process of registering overseas voters is ongoing, the ECP spokesman said. It began on September 1 and will conclude by the 15 of the month. The commission hopes that the maximum number of voters can be registered in the last few days.

An awareness campaign has also been launched to inform Pakistani nationals living abroad about i-voting mechanism. A video message will be broadcast on state-run PTV and ads will be printed in newspapers, Nadim Qasim said. "The ECP is doing everything with regard to the awareness campaign," the spokesman said, adding: "The website has reached one million people."

He explained that only National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis (Nicop) and Machine Readable Passport (MRP) holders can be registered for the i-voting process. He urged all overseas nationals to register for the by-elections.

After voters register, they will be sent a passcode on their provided email before October 14. The passcode will be issued between 8am and 6pm, Pakistan Standard Time.

The spokesperson said that i-voting of overseas Pakistanis is a "pilot project" and its report will be presented before the parliament.

The ECP will be holding by-elections in 37 constituencies for both national and provincial assembly seats on Oct 14. The Overseas Voting System (www.overseasvoting.gov.pk) has listed the constituencies for voting on the website’s homepage.

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REPOLLING AT TWO

PB-41 POLLING STATIONS

The Election Commission of Pakistan on Tuesday ordered re-polling at two polling stations in Balochistan's PB-41 (Washuk) where two presiding officers were allegedly abducted on election day on July 25 and later forced to submit false results.

The issue was taken up by the ECP after a petition filed by losing candidate, Balochistan Awami Party's Mir Mujeebur Rehman Mohammad Hasani, drew its attention to the fact that the results of polling stations number 44 and 45 in Washuk were missing from the final result of the PB-41 constituency.

During the course of the hearing, a returning officer had told the commission that two presiding officers were allegedly abducted by masked men on election day, which led to their polling stations' results not being included in the final count for PB-41.

The RO quoted the two presiding officers as claiming that they had not compiled the results of their constituencies themselves and that "they were forced to submit the results compiled by their abductors."

"Who had abducted them?" an ECP official had asked. At this, Kamran Murtaza, the counsel of PB-41 seat winner belonging to the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal, quoted the presiding officers as saying that they were "abducted by security forces".

Polling station 44 presiding officer had earlier told the ECP that "several masked men came and took me with them... After several hours I was handed the Form 45."

The ECP had earlier reserved its decision pertaining to the results of the two polling stations.

The ECP has also uploaded a letter on its website written by the polling station 45 PO  and verified and stamped by the PB-41 RO  in which the PO claims that he was "abducted by security forces" who later allegedly forced him to submit a Form 45 with a fabricated number of votes on it in order to favour the MMA candidate.

Meanwhile, the ECP has ordered a recount for PS-13 (Larkana) after an ECP bench, headed by the chief election commissioner, heard a petition filed by Grand Democratic Alliance candidate Adil Altaf for recounting in the constituency.

According to the petition, a total of 103,965 votes were cast in the constituency, out of which 99,379 votes were found to be correctly polled.

This means that the number of discarded votes stood at 4,586, while the difference between the winner and the runner-up candidate was only 899 votes.

Pakistan Peoples Party's Hizbullah Bughio had earlier won the seat.