ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court has directed the election commission to devise a mechanism to facilitate over 4.4 million overseas Pakistanis so they could exercise their right to vote in the upcoming general polls.

Heading a three-member bench hearing a case regarding election reforms, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on Friday said the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has not complied with court’s February 14 (Thursday) order to find a way so that Pakistanis living abroad could cast their votes.

The bench, which also included Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, ordered ECP counsel Munir Paracha to put up a compliance report on March 19, saying the commission can take help from Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis, Nadra and Overseas Pakistanis Foundation.

The bench also directed the attorney general to evolve a mechanism, with the assistance of Information Technology ministry, for casting of votes by millions of Pakistanis living abroad.  “All out efforts should be made to make sure that fundamental right to cast vote is granted to every Pakistani including those living abroad,” said the CJP.

The bench also directed the commission to furnish its report on the steps it has taken for implementation of the court judgment on election reforms to make the next elections free and fair.

The bench asked the ECP to update the court by March 19, the next date of hearing. The chief justice remarked the commission should ask the federal authorities for the amendments it seeks in the election laws without wasting time as the attorney general had assured all support for it.

Talking about the proposed amendments, Paracha said that beside other things, the commission wanted powers to take disciplinary actions against the staff, requisitioned from other departments for conducting general elections, for influencing and interrupting the election process. He said as per the existing laws, the ECP cannot initiate criminal proceedings against them.

The Supreme Court has sought categorical statement from Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) that what kind of proposed amendments, they are seeking regarding the implementation of the court’s judgment in Worker Part case.