Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Athar Minallah. — IHC website

IHC dismisses petition on voting procedure for overseas Pakistanis

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Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Athar Minallah. — IHC website

Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Athar Minallah Monday dismissed a petition against the constitutional amendment on the voting procedure for overseas Pakistanis.

The dismissal came after Justice Minallah heard all arguments of the petitioner’s counsel during a plea hearing against the National Assembly bill revoking the Election Act. These 2017 amendments allowed overseas Pakistanis to vote in the general elections.

During the hearing today, the petitioner’s counsel argued that the overseas Pakistanis’ right to vote had been recognised several times; however, they aren’t granted the right.

“Overseas Pakistanis’ will not be given the right to vote till doomsday,” he lamented, adding that Parliament’s “malicious intent” jeopardises overseas Pakistanis’ right to vote.

The IHC chief justice remarked that Parliament’s legislation could not be called “malicious”. He hoped that the Election Commission will fulfil its constitutional responsibility.

Similar case withdrawn earlier

Earlier, a similar petition was filed against the amendments made to the Election Act regarding the right to vote for overseas Pakistanis which was withdrawn from the IHC.

The IHC single bench comprising IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah took up the petition.

The petitioner’s counsel Arif Chaudhry argued that the government had introduced the legislation in accordance with the judgment of the Supreme Court in 2018.

Explainer: Overseas Pakistanis’ voting rights and its hurdles

In 2018, the apex court had directed the ECP to ensure that overseas Pakistanis exercise their right to vote in the upcoming by-polls in the country as a pilot project.

The IHC chief justice, during the proceedings, had noted that the petition was premature since the president had not signed the bill into law.

The court dismissed it as the petitioners sought to withdraw it.

Electoral reforms

The election reforms were introduced by the former PTI government seeking the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) and e-voting for overseas Pakistani in the next general elections.

As soon as the present coalition government took over after the ouster of Imran Khan, their aim was to reverse election reforms and introduced amendments to the NAB before heading towards fresh elections. The bill seeking to amend the act was approved by both the houses (upper and lower) and was sent to President Dr Arif Alvi for approval.

This move was criticised by PTI leaders who also decided to take the matter to the court.

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