The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday rejected a request filed by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) seeking to become a party to the pending case in connection with making arrangements to grant overseas Pakistanis voting rights before this year’s general elections.
A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nasir, while providing PTI with the option to file a separate application on this matter if it desired, said that the honourable bench had to first ascertain the role played by PTI in the National Assembly in regard to the issue of giving the right to vote to overseas Pakistanis.
Earlier petitions filed in the court by a group of citizens said that if the government did not ensure participation of overseas Pakistanis in the democratic process, then it would equate to failure in carrying out its constitutional obligations. The petitions were filed on behalf of solicitor Mohammad Dawood Ghazanvi, Farhat Javed and others.
In the initial phase of the hearing, Justice Ijazul Ahsan inquired if any new legislation had been passed in connection with this issue. On this, PTI counsel Anwar Mansoor Khan informed the court that a clause in the Election Act 2017 required the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to produce a feasibility report on the prospects of overseas Pakistanis voting in last year’s by-elections.
In response to PTI’s opposition to the above-mentioned clause, the chief justice observed that PTI was also a part of the legislative process for the yet to be passed Elections Act.
He inquired whether PTI had voted in favour of the said bill, and if it did, what prompted the party to now challenge the bill in the court. Justice Nisar said that it seemed that the parliament had not given much consideration to the Supreme Court’s April 2013 judgement while drafting the new election law.
The court, while observing that PTI received huge donations from overseas Pakistanis, asked the party to at least present details/records of the debates held in the parliament regarding the act. “We will see who is more affectionate towards overseas Pakistanis in the parliament,” the chief justice remarked when the PTI counsel pointed out that the country’s law provided voting rights to overseas Pakistanis.
Justice Nasir also asked ECP Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh whether overseas Pakistanis had voted in the two by-elections held after the passage of Elections Act 2017. Addressing Fateh, he said, “History will remember you if you conduct free and fair elections.”
The bench adjourned the hearing until January 23 and directed the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) chairman to personally appear at the next hearing.