ISLAMABAD - Another addition to the long list of proposals of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), all of which are yet to be materialised, appears to have been made after the commission on Tuesday proposed measures for the right of vote to the overseas Pakistanis.

Contrary to the widely circulated impression that the ECP approved the right to vote for millions of Pakistanis residing abroad, it finally transpired from the electoral body’s official statement that the move was yet another suggestion to be taken up by the quarters concerned following a lengthy official procedures.

Given the ECP’s track record regarding claims and proposals, while the February 23 deadline for finalising the Electoral Rolls 2011 is also not far away, it is not surprising that serious questions are inevitably being raised over the veracity and credibility of such statements.

The statement says ECP Secretary Ishtiak Ahmed Khan held a meeting with the officials of law and finance ministries and relevant bodies to discuss the possibilities for allowing the Pakistanis living abroad the voting right, who possess National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis (NICOP).

Last year, the same ECP secretary held several meetings on streamlining political finances, assets verification and scrutiny of politicians, degrees verification, purchasing new Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and preparing ER 2011 by December 2011. But “deliberations” on these issues did not appear making progress towards materialisation other than staying confined to approvals and repeated rhetoric.

The ground realities suggest the ECP is yet to establish its political finance wing and that’s why streamlining the electoral expenses of political parties sounds nothing more than a far cry. The assets verification mechanism that was ‘approved’ April last year is limited to claims only, while degrees verification, ER 2011 and relevant proposal” have allegedly fallen victim to the commission’s politically-motivated policies following a reported backdoor agreement the ECP bosses has struck with the government after getting extensions in their tenure.

“An earnest deliberation was made how to enable the overseas Pakistanis to cast their vote and what could be the most fair and transparent acceptable way to resolve the issue. Various possibilities were considered and discussed,” the ECP statement on Tuesday’s meeting says.

The ‘earnest’ deliberations included suggestions such as amendments through legislation, getting the issue of franchise to overseas Pakistanis routed through respective Pakistani embassies abroad and reservation of parliamentary seats. Interestingly, despite sharing such evidently lengthy, unrealistic and traditionally bureaucratic ideas, the ECP and the meeting participants were still hopeful that the overseas Pakistanis’ votes would be incorporated in the electoral rolls, the deadline for which is hardly a week away.

“The ECP secretary said that we have the first-hand knowledge of our country and our condition. We must be dynamic and the pioneer taking initiative towards a positive democratic system,” the press release stated.

It is to be noted that under the ‘dynamism’ of the incumbent ECP secretary, the ER 2011 preparation is likely to get delayed for the third consecutive time. Moreover, the last sentence of the media release suggested the matter would be given ‘further deliberations’.

“The minutes of this consultative meeting would be put before the Election Commission and further deliberation be made to reach at a fair and integrated solution.”– Sikandar Shaheen