Around seven million overseas Pakistanis have been demanding reforms in Pakistan’s electoral system that will allow them to cast vote for their favourite political parties. Several attempts have already been made by politicians like Senator Rehman Malik, Dr Farooq Sattar, and PTI jumping on the wagon last minute.
Successive governments have been pressurised to reform the electoral system. Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has also acknowledged that under the light of constitution, overseas Pakistanis certainly do have right to cast their vote.
A three-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar is now hearing the petition filed by civil society members, demanding an appropriate mechanism under which overseas Pakistanis can also vote in the next general elections. Upon instructions, NADRA has also started working on the development of an integrated internet voting system aimed at extending the right of franchise to Pakistanis of different nationalities living out of the country.
The apex court has instructed NADRA to create a three-tier electronic mechanism for the overseas Pakistanis. It needs to be developed at the cost of no more than Rs150 million and should be completed within a period of four months. The three-tier internet voting mechanism includes voter registration and verification, vote casting procedures, and results compilation and audit. But it seems that political parties such as PPP and PML-N are not in favour of these new reforms that will come into effect in the upcoming general elections. They have their own obvious reasons; rigging won’t be possible in the presence of biometric verification.
During the hearing of the petition that demanded reforms in the electoral system, Chief Justice remarked that there were certain overseas Pakistanis who broke their promises of returning to their homeland. ‘Where is Hussain Haqqani? Would he also get the right to vote? Why not just send him a notice to come back and face the Memogate case?’
The CJ asked for the Memogate file from the registrar’s office. All of cognizant of the fact that the notorious Memogate scandal had surfaced once again in 2011 when Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz claimed to have received an ‘anti-army’ memo from Hussain Haqqani for the then-US joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen.
Meanwhile, overseas Pakistanis must have been wondering about what is transpiring in the bench hearing this case: Is their fate now dependent on the character of Pakistani or the political scrutiny? While it also makes me wonder if we are being treated as ‘Good Taliban’ and ‘Bad Taliban’. Ironically, we will be treated as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ overseas Pakistanis.
An investment of merely half million dollars can help you fly to Canada. And believe me, Canada is not even interested in knowing the source of these five crores. You just have to prove that you have half a million dollars and they will do the rest for you
As a Canadian of Pakistani origin, I immediately thought of some examples of good and bad that may fit into this criterion. The legendary actor Muhammad Qavi Khan came into my mind. He lives in Canada and is one of the veteran actors. Bushra Ansari is another example of the ‘good overseas’ Pakistanis. She travels around the globe very frequently. Senior artist Mehmood Akhtar, Nauman Ejaz, SM Muneer, Khalil Ahmed Nainitalwal, etc. It’s an endless list.
We have had former Brigadier Imtiaz and sons who also honoured us with their gracious presence and funds that poured in. Retired forces officer Anwar Shamim in the US also is one example. Even some local thugs have made millions from corruption in mortgage and real estate fraud and are now the owners of shopping plazas or malls in Rawalpindi.
Some businessmen-turned journalists and owners of local newspapers also got involved in Foreign Exchange money Transfer and now flourish very well here and also in the homeland. The local consulate also hosts many who have relatives in Pakistan’s elite class and they enjoy postings here.
I am not an immigration consultant but we all know that lately a new wave of migration took place that utilised new entrepreneurship category. Merely an investment of half million-dollars can help you fly to Canada. And believe me, Canada is not even interested in knowing the source of these five crores. It could be Rao Anwar, Model Ayan Ali or any Tom, Dick and Harry. You just have to prove that you have half million dollars and they will do the rest for you.
Since the honourable Chief Justice has mentioned Hussain Haqqani, shouldn’t we also include people who looted the country and now have dual residency in the palaces of Dubai and Saudi Arabia? People, who carry a one-page Iqama or permanent lifetime entry visa in certain oil rich countries?
Would someone bother to question the integrity and eligibility of ex-General Pervez Musharraf who clearly violated article 6 of the constitution? How about the bloggers who were wrongfully accused of blasphemy and are now known as exiled overseas Pakistanis?
My question is: will NADRA include a questionnaire for filtering out some who can or cannot have the right to vote, which includes the following questions: (a) Are you Sunni (b) Do you support or like Khadim Rizvi or not (c) Who is your favourite TV Anchor? Choices are 1-Shahid Masood 2-Amir Liaquat, (d) What is your favourite TV Channel? Choices are (1) ARY or (BOL). Finally, please get verified and obtain a certificate like a ‘Watan Card’ from your local Counsel General or Ambassador that you are a (TOP) meaning True Overseas Pakistani.
This might take another seventy years and yet we will continue sending billions of dollars every year into our beloved country’s’ foreign reserve because though we certainly are dual national, we also care more about our motherland. So in my opinion, the right question should be: ‘what took it so long’? and not that ‘Where is Hussain Haqqani’?
The writer is a social and civil right activist and very vocal on Human Right violations across the globe. He works as Host/Producer (Current Affairs) at a leading news channel of North America. He can be reached at email@example.com and tweets @anis_farooqui
Published in Daily Times, February 1st 2018.