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Why Overseas Pakistanis Should Not Be Allowed the Voting Right?

Pakistanis with Dual Nationality should never have a right to vote. Anyone in the country who does not face the consequence of their vote shall not have the right to vote. Nobody should be in a position to choose a government that they themselves are not under. More recently, PTI’s defected Minister has submitted a Bill to oppose Candidature for overseas Pakistanis. A turncoat MNA Noor Alam Khan has tabled a resolution to stop overseas from voting. All overseas Pakistanis will have to cancel one passport before December 31st, 2022. Once you surrender your Pakistani Citizenship you are no more entitled to vote. To be very frank, Non-Resident Indians (NRI) also don’t have the right to vote.

Overseas Pakistanis are More Patriotic

Just to “educate” that how much remittances play a crucial role in Pakistan’s economy. Overseas Pakistanis have a unique entitlement of being Pakistani by heart. They gauge their patriotism with charities and alms-giving sent to Pakistan because of their Guilty Conscience. Overseas Pakistani remitted $145 Billion Dollars in the last 5 Years; whereas just for the last year the loans sought from IMF were $4.5 Billion Dollars vs. foreign remittances:

  1. Saudi Arabia – $10 Billion Dollars
  2. China – $4.2 Billion Dollars
  3. USA – $800 Million

Overseas Pakistanis send Remittance only to their own families. Being overseas and away, they tend to overcompensate. Both religiously and in terms of nationalism. They tend to over-emphasize how many Muslims and Pakistanis they are. It’s fairly common in most immigrant populations. No one sends Remittance in the love of the nation; they send it to uplift the financial status of their families. Their families live in this country and have all the voting rights already. You are only feeding your own families, you’re not sending the state money through the state bank but to private accounts tied to your family. Hence your family can vote since they’re being fed. Remittances account for less than 9% of our GDP, that is peanuts but enough to keep your family warm.

The taxpayer shall get the right

Overseas Pakistanis take a high-moral ethical ground to be the economy revolver. But then they can also influence people back home. OSP investment will cause foreign intervention. Same as the dubious status of Hussain Haqqani is the status of any tom, dick, and harry from abroad who can influence their families back home and entice them to vote for Imran Khan for his looks. By this logic, the US, UK, IMF, World Bank, and China should also have a say as they give us loans and aid. Also, Overseas Pakistanis with Third or Fourth generation have literally little to no interest. Otherwise, by this standard, election contesting should also be allowed. With the advent of overseas Pakistanis, the threat of polarization abroad will cause further division in the Pakistani nation. There are so many political wings already. Things will get messy.

Overseas Pakistanis are divided into three broad categories: Pakistani Passport Holders, Non-Pakistani Passport Holders, and illegal migrants that commit illegal border crossing (Vessel/dunky) or those who overstay (tearing away Passports even). NICOP is not the requirement to vote. But Pakistani Passport is mandatory. There is a Dual Passport in Europe, the US, and North America. Almost 95% of people in Europe do not qualify. for vote. So there are two things. Firstly, does the constitution allow for them to vote? Secondly, should they be allowed to vote?

Constitution/law says anybody with a Pakistani passport can vote and no other conditions currently. Anyone with Pakistani citizenship can vote in elections without any problem. In front of the law, they are completely equal citizens with equal rights to vote as any other citizen. The only difference is that OSPs can’t vote since they have to go back to the country to do so, which is obviously not very feasible for many. Some other countries have different conditions for overseas citizens to vote we don’t currently.

We’re not discussing the law, we are discussing the principle. I feel it is not an overseas Pakistani’s place to have any influence in a country that they don’t even live in runs itself. Whatever the reason, their parents or themselves ultimately chose not to reside in Pakistan. The blind spot person who is not aware of local circumstances in Pakistan or the ground reality why should they have any say in how the country is governed? As far as should they be allowed, I think anyone living outside Pakistan who doesn’t have any other passport should be allowed to vote.

I say this because let’s suppose you become a UK National, so with your loyalties and allegiance to the Queen, you surrender your Pakistani nationality and agree to take weapons even against Pakistan. Imagine the rogue Hussain Haqqani who was close to the Obama administration meddling in Pakistani State Affairs.

The case of Australian emigrants from Pakistan

Australian High Commission Pakistan conveyed a message for Pakistanis who live in Australia and were visiting Pakistan, for voting in the Australian federal election, the Pakistan embassy is unable to offer in-person or postal voting for the 2022 Federal Election. For voters unable to travel to other locations to vote, HCP recommends eligible voters in Pakistan submit an Overseas notification form to the AEC as soon as possible.

The Case Study of Canada and The USA

Many countries like Canada and the US allow their citizens to vote in their elections even if they aren’t in their respective countries. Canadian Citizens living in Pakistan can vote for making a Government in Canada. Canadian Law for overseas C-76 says that Canadian Expats may cast their vote. But it can be argued that for them, it’s maybe only a few thousand people who have a barebones effect on the voting process so it doesn’t raise eyebrows while countries like Pakistan have a larger diaspora who could have a tangible effect on the elections if they all voted.

Overseas Pakistanis in Europe and the Americas who favor PTI are primarily biased as they think people here are illiterate and they have an entitlement of being superior under the colonial mindset they possess. Perception is made that majority of them overseas are voters of PTI. In fact, more people live in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia or the Gulf States.

Kingdoms and Gulf Estates

The majority of OSPs aren’t in first-world countries like US or UK but instead in the Gulf states, which offer no citizenship, meaning they will 100% return back to Pakistan.

They are only there on work visas with the objective of earning money and sending it back to Pakistan. Elections and policies will 100% affect these OSPs greatly unlike the ones in the developed world who are affected little because they have dual citizenships.

Middle East OSPs 100% deserve the ability to vote and are always going to return to the country, not to mention the fact all their money goes back to Pakistan so they should most definitely have a say in Pakistan. They should definitely get the ability to vote even if all the others don’t get the ability to do so. Maybe a policy that dual nationals don’t get to vote?

The main case is for a large number of Pakistanis in Arab/Gulf countries who will have to return to Pakistan at some time and have no other passport. Now what will be the procedure for them to vote is core complicated. Our overseas brothers give their sweat and blood. They send their hard-earned money back home. First of all, we have to see at the local Laws. Does the host country allow this activity or not. Middle Eastern and Gulf countries are entirely undemocratic.

About 4-5 Million Overseas Pakistanis are working in the UAE and there is a huge Labour populace in Saudi Arabia. Most of the time each individual is the sole bread earner of their family. How could the Kingdoms afford it? The Gulf countries are an interesting point as they do not grant citizenship to outsiders. Pakistan exercising its citizen’s voting in Kingdoms/Emirates will cause a local stir.

Actually, if you look at it in a different way, the people in the gulf mostly have no other citizenship. For most of them, their families and all loved ones live in Pak as well and they will themselves return to Pakistan. I think dual citizen overseas Pakistanis shouldn’t be allowed to vote. But OSPs in Gulf countries (the vast majority) have no backup plan and Pakistan is still their only home country. So I think they do have a vested interest in Pakistan and their life does depend on it.

As far as one having input on how others are governed. The idea of democracy is if you and others agree to form a democratic society or live in one, then we will live by a majority of decisions. Where I have the opportunity to convince you to vote a certain way and you do the same towards me. So it is possible that you may be governed in a way that you do not agree with, but it is due to a system that we agreed on.

Of course, you can say that is not how it is in reality in Pakistan, but we are discussing what should be or is better, etc.

Free and Fair Elections

Today, Overseas Pakistanis can’t even order passport printing online. Can Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) be adopted outside Pakistan while they are not used here in Pakistan? The cost of holding elections with EVM adoption is 56 Billion Pakistani Rupees. But more concerningly, the transponder prints form-45 that is connected with the machine anybody can cut its cord. That becomes equivalent to aliens taking away the vote box as they did in Daska.

Lack of Resources

Currently, the registered overseas voters are about 90 Lac. However, according to the logistics viability, if only five thousand people in a day go to the consulate, it gets choked. Even then, depending on their domicile and where they used to live they can vote for certain MNA and MPA candidates as we are a parliamentary democracy and don’t vote directly for a leader. So to say they will all vote for any one party doesn’t make sense to me. There has to be a lot of printing.

The postal Ballot is the most probable issue. Voting by post is usually done before the election somewhat around a month early. Sometimes the Vote difference is less than the rejected votes. This is where the overseas votes can alter the voting results. Look, for example, in the neighboring country of India, the different state’s polls swung because they had multiple delays in voting and thus the earlier results somehow affected the convention of the winning party.

The Case of Easy Manipulation

Let us perform the reverse Engineering of the vote on the General Assembly seats. There are 272 Parliamentarian seats in the National Assembly; whereas, there are only 20-25 seats that have a true bulk of a large populace dwelling outside Pakistan. So, if there are Nine Million overseas Pakistanis then half of them are having valid votes hypothetically (Passport and NICOP requirements) to take into consideration.

Also, we might overestimate the effect of overseas voting. There are around 9 million overseas Pakistanis total, how many will vote, even to assume 50% voter turnout is a lot if you look at our past elections and elections around the world. Although I think that only, 10 lac people would vote out of 90 lac. But the split per constituency by average votes is 9 Million/25 seats. Given the overseas turn out to be roughly fifty, it would mean roughly 62,500 more votes that can be bagged. And then if by per-centile if they are split into the third quartile for the first three candidates, there is a fair 15000 additional votes for the runner-up candidate.

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So if the lead difference for the winning local votes is anywhere around this number then the overseas Pakistanis can fair fully change the game regardless of what Party candidate they choose. If at all a candidate with 300,000 votes in their favor gets the additional overseas votes then the candidate ensures just a bigger percentage victory margin. However, the winning margins for PTI disruption remained at 4% whereas the stalwart PMLN margins were more than 15%.

There already is a Time Zone difference for flights between New York and California. So one who takes up a flight can in the last hours of the polling easily swing.

Should Overseas Pakistanis get reserve seats?

So basically anyone that invests in Pakistan should have voting rights. A lot of Overseas Pakistani people also have investments in Pakistan and probably don’t want criminals to eat it all up for which their special constituents/representatives could be held answerable. Some of them although not actively residing in Pakistan still have ties and business to attend to, and thus the choice of Govt. there makes a huge difference. Think of Land Grabbing as the most common complaint.

Constituency Seats for Pakistanis can be an ephemeral solution as discussed by Ishaq Dar, and Abid Sher Ali. For the Halqa Bandi, we then will have to look into the local country or regional laws. You may say that Europe has two constituencies and then the Americas have one and Gulf has four and the Pakistanis reside in the Scandanavian Nations. But what shall be their mandate? How would they be held accountable and according to which law?

Online Voting and Rigging

Currently, enough work hasn’t been done to have electronic voting or overseas vote in the next general elections. We all know when Donald Trump won, some named it glitches and some said that Russian hackers had changed the polls. The then Opposition and now the government may spin online voting under operational difficulties. But, the Election reforms by PTI were insincere. There were so many by-poll elections if the PTI was so keen. The election commission may have used Step by step implementation; should have done experimentation and identified loopholes.

The absurd case of EVM

EVM incorporation by PTI Government was a merely cheap publicity stunt. In rural Pakistan, there aren’t any Automated Teller Machines. People do not have basic training. First, ensure better than 50% turnover with ballot votes. If local elections get rigged free then think of implementing it abroad. I think more emphasis is needed to ensure electronic voting machines in Pakistan and the infrastructure needed to support them. If the right system is there, then we can move in direction of having an actual democracy where large-scale rigging can’t occur, which is a fundamental problem we’ve had historically. Forget pre-polled rigging of luring winning candidates into the King’s party.

i-Voting Rights Case Study

The Election Commission of Pakistan in collaboration with NADRA has developed an Online Voting System for Overseas Pakistanis. Using this system, Overseas Pakistanis would cast their vote in their home constituencies as per the Voter’s List from the comfort of their homes using any internet-connected device like a PC, Laptop, SmartPhone, or Tablet.

An Overseas Voter who wishes to use the system must have:-

– A National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistani
– A Machine Readable Passport
– A valid Email Address

Overseas Voters must first register themselves with the Online Voting System in order to cast their vote. Under the ECP’s prescribed criteria, each overseas Pakistani had National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis (NICOP), Machine Readable Passport (MRP) and whose name was in the voter list for the by-poll in the Lahore constituency for an election that took place on December 13, was eligible for registration as a voter. Only three people got registered.

The lack of interest shown by the Pakistani diaspora living abroad in i-voting has dampened the spirits of the officials of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) as only three expatriates registered themselves for the upcoming PP-168 by-election in Lahore.

The three individuals, who registered their votes online before the expiry of the deadline, were among the 4,677 voters belonging to the mentioned constituency residing in more than 10 different countries. The registration process lasted for 15 days – from 12th November 2018 to 27th November 2018. This was the second time i-voting took place.

Earlier in September 2018, only 7,419 Pakistanis living abroad had registered themselves with the ECP to vote in the by-elections for 37 constituencies of national and provincial assemblies held on October 14. 

The i-Voting system first determined the eligibility of the voter and asked to enter:-

– 13-digit Unique National Identity Card Number printed on NICOP Card
– The Issuance Date of the NICOP Card
– Machine Readable Passport Number
– And the Tracking ID Number printed on Machine Readable Passport

Out of 650,000 overseas Pakistani voters in 2018, only 6500 Pakistanis cast their votes – whereas the rest of the voters didn’t even vote. More importantly, why they should get the online voting right whereas people residing in Pakistan should not.

It does raise concerns because some know the ground realities of the nation and some don’t. Some lived most of their lives in Pakistan while some didn’t at all. However, unlike other diasporas, OSPs are major contributors to the economy and do have immense connections with their countries usually. Even if the politics of Pakistan don’t affect them, they certainly have an effect on Pakistan. Take it as you will.

If at all in bombshell news, no Pakistani can keep two Pakistani passports. Not all overseas Pakistanis are the same. Only oversee Pakistanis that carry valid Pakistani passports should be allowed to vote. This allows you to exclude the diaspora that lives in the west and is disconnected from Pakistan. It allows you to include the diaspora in the Middle East and that very much is affected by Pakistan and Pakistan’s policies and will die in Pakistan.

Postal Ballot is currently allowed only for Government Employees and Jail interns. Pakistanis when come here to vote then they bring in their own mineral water bottles. A cost-effective way is to come to Pakistan at least 3 months earlier and observe local candidates and then vote. There already is a vote right for Pakistanis they can exercise by flying in so plan your holiday accordingly in the upcoming General Elections. Dear PIA, please be sure to make extra flights available at the time of the elections as we OSP are coming to vote. 

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