Islamabad - The expats may not get a chance to cast vote as the Election Commission and the caretaker government have declared the execution of this exercise a 'gigantic' task.

The ECP is to submit its report in the Supreme Court today that it is not in a position to carry out this exercise on account of several "legal, diplomatic, logistical and technical" hurdles.

"Voting arrangement for overseas Pakistanis in just 17 days is really a gigantic task. It's very difficult," Law Minister Ahmer Bilal Sufi told TheNation on Wednesday, following a meeting between the ECP and the government bodies over the issue of expat-voting.

He said that seven countries -- Saudi Arabia, United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, France and United Arab Emirates -- had shown willingness to provide assistance for the voting process in their countries but it was not possible for Pakistani authorities to do so. During the hearing of voting facility to overseas Pakistanis case in the SC on Wednesday, the ECP expressed its inability to arrange voting for expats.

The SC expressed 'annoyance' upon hearing this. IT Minster Sania Nishtar told the court that IT related issues like linking the ECP central voting data with the other countries was a 'virtually impossible' task because Nadra never tested its software designed for this purpose. "What if our system stopped working in the middle of the voting in foreign states and people keep standing in long queues? This software has never been practically tested in voting exercise," she said only to earn SC's displeasure. The court said that the ECP was 'sleeping' for the last two years.

Nishtar also passed the buck on the poll body saying ‘it should have informed the court much earlier about the impossibilities exist to execute the project’. The SC sought written reply from the ECP today, observing that it would pass an order today.    Three election commission members; Justice (r) Shahzad Akbar, Justice (r) Riaz Kayani and Justice (r) Fazlur Rehman chaired the meeting on Wednesday which was attended by the law minister, Information Technology Minister Sania Nishtar, ECP Secretary Ishtiak Ahmed Khan, ECP Elections Director General Syed Sher Afgan, ECP Director Legal Nawaz Khan and officials of Foreign Ministry.

The meeting decided to inform the apex court in writing about the difficulties of arranging polling for the Pakistanis living abroad on May 11.

An ECP official said: "Over 70 percent of Pakistani expats are living in the Middle East. How the electronic voting facility could be provided to them when their majority is illiterate and cannot operate the online voting software.

“Although, Saudi Arabia has shown willingness to provide assistance in arranging the voting facility there, setting up dozens of polling stations for 1.6 million Pakistanis was a next to impossible task.”

In Pakistan, he said, every polling station accommodates 2,500 voters. "Even if we set up 20 polling stations in Saudi Arabia, each polling station would be required to accommodate 80,000 voters. It is not possible for us to facilitate that much voters at every polling station.

"At least 15-member electoral staff is needed at every polling station. If we send 300 people to one country, how would we manage with our staff for the remaining 14 states? The ECP can only spare up to 400 men for performing duties in the 15 countries.”

The Foreign Affairs Ministry already expressed its inability to process the visa requests of the ECP electoral staff for the western countries.