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NA passes bill barring use of EVMs, denying voting rights to overseas Pakistanis

Updated 26 May, 2022
<p>Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar rejected the impression that the amendments were aimed at depriving overseas Pakistanis of their right to vote. Photo via Twitter/<a rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank" class="link--external" href="https://twitter.com/NAofPakistan">@NAofPakistan</a></p>

Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar rejected the impression that the amendments were aimed at depriving overseas Pakistanis of their right to vote. Photo via Twitter/@NAofPakistan

The National Assembly has passed the Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2022 that seeks to stop the use of electronic voting machines for general elections and bars overseas Pakistanis from voting.

Speaking in the House on Thursday, Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar rejected the impression that the amendments were aimed at depriving overseas Pakistanis of their right to vote.

“Overseas Pakistanis are precious asset of the country and the government does not believe in snatching their right to vote,” he said, adding all parties in the government had consulted on the proposal to grant representation to expats in the NA.

Regarding the use of Electronic Voting Machines, the law minister said that the government is not against the use of technology but there were concerns over the misuse of technology.

He said the Election Commission of Pakistan had also expressed its inability to hold elections through i-Voting and EVMs in a short span of time and without proper homework.

Tarar said two amendments were being brought to revive the Elections Act 2017, enabling the ECP to ensure free, fair, and transparent elections.

According to an amendment in Section 94 of the Election Act, 2017, the commission may conduct pilot projects for voting of overseas Pakistanis in by-elections to ascertain the technical efficacy, secrecy, security and financial feasibility of the voting and shall share the results with the government.

The government official shall, within 15 days from the commencement of a session of a House after the receipt of the report, lay the same before both Houses of the Parliament.

Under another amendment in Section 103 of the Election Act, 2017, the ECP may conduct pilot projects for utilization of EVMs and biometric verification system in the by-elections.

Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Raja Riaz Ahmed said the bill was passed by the former government along with more than a dozen other bills in a hurry. He added that the House should complete its tenure and the elections should be held on time.

Responding to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s remarks, he assured that the opposition will play its positive and constructive role in running affairs of the House.

Earlier, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, while speaking on the floor of the House, congratulated Ahmed on becoming Leader of the Opposition. He assured Ahmed of his government’s full cooperation in running business of the House in an amicable manner.

The prime minister said the treasury benches will pay utmost attention to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition by burying the traditions of the past.

The law minister also moved the National Accountability (Second Amendment) Bill, 2021 in the House to amend the NAB Ordinance, 1999.