Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif on Saturday presented a new formula for the representation of overseas Pakistanis in parliament.
In a series of tweets, the PML-N chief suggested reserving five to seven seats in the National Assembly and two seats in the Senate so that the representatives can effectively raise the problems faced by the expatriates. “The modalities and conditions of representation on these reserved seats can be decided by all the political parties in parliament and the required legislation can be enacted with their consensus,” he said. “In this way, Pakistanis abroad can get guaranteed representation in parliament,” he said, adding that along the same lines, seats may be allotted in the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Assembly to represent overseas Pakistanis. “The PML-N supports the right to vote for Pakistanis abroad under a democratic approach and principles,” he said.
Shehbaz said during elections, expats can come to the country and cast votes at the polling stations mentioned in the voter lists. “Our Pakistani brothers and sisters abroad are our precious asset and the pride of Pakistan,” he said. “We want an immediate, fair, and just solution to all the problems of the overseas community that they face vis-à-vis Pakistan,” he added.
The proposal from Shehbaz comes after the PML-N came under fire by the ruling PTI over their opposition to the PTI’s electoral reforms bill through which the overseas Pakistanis are given online voting rights.
Last week, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had informed the federal government that 13 sections of the NA-approved Election Amendment Bill are in conflict with the constitution. The ECP had contacted the federal government via the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs about its reservations through a letter. The letter was written by the ECP secretary to his counterpart at the ministry. The ECP had asked the ministry that Prime Minister Imran Khan be informed about the body’s objections to the bill.
In the letter, ECP said that the bill passed by the National Assembly was in conflict with the constitution. It said that the demarcation of constituencies based on voters rather than the population is not in line with the constitution. “The rights regarding the voters list are under the purview of the ECP and 13 provisions of the proposed Election Act are unconstitutional,” the ECP secretary had said in the letter, adding that using open ballot method instead of secret voting for Senate polls also conflicted with the opinion given by the Supreme Court.
Earlier this month, the NA had passed a record 21 government bills, including the Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2020. Advisor to Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan had tabled the bill for consideration after suspension of the rules. The House had passed the bill with majority vote after voice voting.
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. Amendments were sought in section 94 and 103 of the Election Act, 2017 to achieve the aforesaid objectives.