The Internet Voting Task Force (IVTF) of Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) highlighting the flaws in the E-Voting mechanism 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.
The inability of expats to cast their votes also undermines one essential democratic principle: all citizens should have equal rights, regardless of where they happen to be at election time. Pakistanis living abroad whose invaluable contributions in sustaining the fragile economy deserve the right to exercise their voting rights as much as any other citizen of Pakistan.
It is unfortunate that for the last seven decades the state has failed in devising a mechanism that can ensure expats to exercise their voting right. Giving citizens the right and opportunity to vote, despite their place of residence, can generate positive results that go beyond participation in choosing their favoured party or candidate. Such option ensures more direct affiliation and belief in their home country.
More than 6 million Pakistanis in foreign lands are eligible voters. Such a significant number of voters can change the outlook of election results. But it is shameful that even in 2018, the state is unable to establish any mechanism for these potential voters. While the fears of manipulation in online voting expressed before ECP should be taken into consideration, the ECP can mimic other countries that ensure their expats vote. In the US presidential elections, American citizens living abroad go to their respective embassies to vote for whomever they want to vote.
Deliberations, indeed, are needed to ensure voter secrecy, the stability of the system. However, caution on such issues should neither make ECP nor NADRA lethargic. ECP should put in more considerable effort to ensure that overseas Pakistanis can vote in the next general elections, making the most of the five-year period to finalise arrangements.