Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Athar Minallah has said that the amendments made by the coalition government to the Elections Act 2017 do not rob overseas Pakistanis of their right to vote.
He issued these remarks today during the hearing of a petition filed by solicitor Dawood Ghazanavi and dual national Atif Iqbal Khan over the implementation of the Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2022. According to the bill, overseas Pakistanis are prevented from voting electronically.
The respondents in the case are the federation of Pakistan through the secretary of the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
Earlier on May 26, the National Assembly passed the Election Amendment Bill 2022, as well as the National Accountability (Second Amendment) Bill, that removed the usage of electronic voting machines (EVMs) as well restricted the powers of the anti-corruption watchdog.
Both amendments reversed the laws passed by the previous Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government.
The petitioners had appealed to the court to ensure that a ‘fundamental right’ of overseas Pakistanis was restored to them, following the ‘authoritative judgement’, adding that their main grievance was the amendment in Section 94 in the Elections (Amendment) Act, 2022.
According to the petition, under Section 94 of the Elections Act, 2017, the ECP is legally bound to enforce the fundamental right of vote of overseas Pakistanis, which had, for all intents and purposes, been taken away under the guise of the said amendment act.
The Chief Justice said that the amendments made by the previous government did not seem to be in line with the Supreme Courts’ ruling, however he contended that the right to vote had not been taken away from overseas Pakistanis.
“None of the amendments take away the right of overseas Pakistanis to vote,” he said.
The CJ said that some modulation would need to be formulated, as 9 million expatriates cannot be expected to vote in a single constituency.
Minallah then adjourned the case till June 3 as he sought more arguments for the maintainability of the petition.