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Parliament approves use of EVMs, grants Overseas Pakistanis right to vote

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: The Joint Session of the Parliament on Wednesday passed the Elections (Second Amendment Bill), 2021 with a simple majority, granting the right of vote to Overseas Pakistanis and providing for use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in the elections.

It was moved by the Prime Minister’s Adviser on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan.

In the Session, 221 members voted in favour of the bill while 203 voted against it.

Under the bill, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) shall, with the technical assistance of NADRA and any other authority or agency, enable Overseas Pakistanis in a prescribed manner subject to secrecy and security to exercise their right to vote during the general elections.

The bill also authorizes the ECP to procure EVMs for casting of votes in general elections.

The Joint sitting also passed the International Court of Justice (Review and Reconsideration) bill, 2021.

Moved by Law Minister Farogh Naseem, the bill provides for the right of review and reconsideration in the matter of Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav to give legal effect to the judgment of the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

The Indian spy had been sentenced to death by a Court in Pakistan back in April 2017. Commander Jadhav was a RAW operative who facilitated numerous acts of terrorism in Pakistan, which resulted in the killings of countless innocent citizens of Pakistan.

However, the opposition parties rejected the bills passed at the Joint Session of the Parliament and announced to challenge them in the Court of Law.

Earlier while speaking in the Parliament, the Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that the government wants to introduce a credible and transparent system for elections through legislation.

The foreign minister said that their electoral reforms are aimed at protecting the election process from being stolen. He asked the opposition parties to also vote in favor of the relevant bills.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi pointed out that questions have always been raised on the elections held after 1970. He said that time has come to set the direction right and ensure the transparency and credibility of the electoral process.

Qureshi said that the expatriate Pakistanis are our precious asset and they will be involved in the decision making. He said that the Overseas Pakistanis will be given the right to franchise.

Taking the floor, the Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif strongly opposed the use of electronic voting machines in the elections.

Shahbaz Sharif said that electoral reforms of the government have also been rejected by the ECP. He said that the consultation process should be restarted with the opposition parties on electoral reforms.

The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari stressed the government should bring consensus electoral reforms after consultations with the opposition parties.

Bilawal Bhutto said that no haste should be made on this matter and the legislation should be such on which nobody can raise objections.

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