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Overseas Pakistanis get voting rights

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Parliament has passed legislation that will allow “overseas Pakistanis” to vote in the country’s general election.

Amid opposition uproar, the Joint Sitting of the Parliament on Wednesday passed the Elections (Second Amendment) Bill, 2021 with majority votes by rejecting all amendments proposed by the opposition benches.

Advisor the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Dr Zaheer-un-Din Babar Awan piloted the bill in the House and the motion to consider the bill was passed with a majority vote. A total of 221 lawmakers voted in favor of the motion while 203 lawmakers opposed it.

Later, the Parliament passed the legislative proposal which pertains to fair, free and transparent election through the utilization of technology and modern gadgets.

The bill is also aimed at granting voting rights to the Overseas Pakistanis which may only be possible by vesting exclusive authority in ECP with technical assistance of NADRA and other agencies.

It also asks to procure electronic voting machines (EVMs) for the casting of votes in general elections. Amendments were sought in sections 94 and 103 of the Election Act, 2017 to achieve the aforesaid objectives.

Majlis-e-Shoora passed the amendments moved by Advisor to Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Dr. Babar Awan while the amendments moved by MNA Mohsin Dawar, Senator Taj Haider and Senator Mushtaq Ahmed were rejected by the House.

Speaking in the Joint Sitting of the Parliament, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the electoral reforms are aimed at protecting the election process from being stolen. He asked the opposition parties to also vote in favor of the relevant bills.

The Foreign Minister pointed out that questions have always been raised on the elections held after 1970.  He said the time has come to set the direction right and ensure the transparency and credibility of the electoral process.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the government, on its part, time and again approached the opposition parties on electoral reforms. He said we repeatedly tried to give demonstrations to the opposition parties on Electronic Voting Machines. He said the aim of introducing EVMs is to bury the evil design and vicious mindset of imposing the governments.

The Foreign Minister said the PTI and its allied parties are fully united and have the majority to get the electoral reforms bill passed.

The Foreign Minister said the expatriate Pakistanis are our precious asset and they will be involved in the decision making.  He said the overseas Pakistanis will be given the right to franchise.

Earlier, taking the floor, Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif strongly opposed the use of electronic voting machines in the elections. He said electoral reforms of the government have also been rejected by the Election Commission of Pakistan. Shahbaz Sharif said the consultation process should be restarted with the opposition parties on electoral reforms.

Taking the floor, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari stressed the government should bring consensus electoral reforms after consultations with the opposition parties. He said no haste should be made on this matter and the legislation should be such on which nobody can raise objections.

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