SC orders ECP to submit report on overseas voting rights

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The Supreme Court ordered the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Friday to submit a status report on the voting rights of Pakistanis living abroad.

The hearing on the petitions of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan and Pakistan Awami Muslim League (AML) founder Sheikh Rashid concerned about granting expatriates the right to vote was presided over by a three-member panel led by Judge Ijazul Ahsan.

“How is the revision of the law of the right to vote of overseas Pakistanis not constitutionally valid?” the top court questioned during the hearing.

At the hearing, Judge Muneeb Akhtar remarked that “the Election Act was passed by Parliament in 2017,” adding that section 94 of the act regarding the ability to vote for overseas Pakistanis is clear.

The apex court had pronounced Section 94 to be constitutional in 2018, he continued.

The law was further improved in 2021, and Parliament was reinstated to its previous status in 2022, according to Judge Akhtar.

The justice of the Supreme Court went on to ask how the law, which had previously been upheld as constitutional, could suddenly be deemed unconstitutional by the SC.

According to NADRA, if the ECP signs an agreement, they can establish an I-voting system within a year, according to the petitioner’s attorney, Arif Chaudhary.

The “electoral watchdog has ceased work on the question of expatriate Pakistanis’ right to vote,” Rashid’s attorney informed the court.

There is no barrier, he continued, if the ECP takes action to grant abroad Pakistanis the right to vote.

The Election Act revision was then questioned by Judge Akhtar, who added that “if the Parliament is modifying the legislation, why should the court interfere?”

The petitioners’ attorney was then told to submit an amended application, and the electoral watchdog was told to submit a progress report on the voting rights of Pakistanis living abroad.