Pakistan parliament grants voting rights to overseas citizens, allows use of EVMs

Khan meets PTI lawmakers as opposition finalises strategy to block controversial bill

05:15 PM | 17 Nov, 2021
Pakistan parliament grants voting rights to overseas citizens, allows use of EVMs

ISLAMABAD – The joint session of the Parliament Wednesday approved amendment bills on election rules that allow the use of electronic voting machines and grant right to overseas Pakistanis to cast their votes through the internet.

The government managed to pass the Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2021, and the Elections (Second Amendment) Bill, 2021 despite uproar created by the opposition parties.

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan tabled the bill to amend the Elections Act, 2017. The motion to table the electoral reforms bill passed with 221 votes in favour while 203 lawmakers opposed it.

National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser announced the approval of the bills despite the concerns raised by the Opposition about counting of the government members.

As per the bill, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) shall, with the technical assistance of NADRA and any other authority or agency, enable overseas Pakistanis in prescribed manner subject to secrecy and security to exercise their right to vote during the general elections.

The bill also authorizes the ECP to procure electronic voting machines for balloting in general elections.

The joint session also approved various other bills, including International Court of Justice bill, 2021 related to Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav.

The bill provides for the right of review and reconsideration in the death sentence of Jadhav, who had been arrested from Balochistan. In April 2017, a court in Pakistan had sentenced the Indian spy to death.

Earlier, addressing the session, Opposition Leader in NA Shehbaz Sharif said that he had written a letter to Speaker Asad Qaiser, raising his concerns over the government’s hasty moves to get approved the bills without consensus. "But we received no answer from you," he said.

Earlier, the government withdrew the order for a joint session of the parliament, scheduled for November 11. The session was called by the government in order to pass the NAB Ordinance Bill and electoral reforms bill among other legislation items.

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