IHC refers matter to ECP
Islamabad: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has converted a constitutional petition, seeking fundamental right of vote for some eight million overseas Pakistanis, into representation and made reference to the newly appointed Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sardar Muhammad Raza Khan.
Talking to The Nation here on Sunday, the counsel for the petitioner Barrister M Dawood Ghazanavi informed that a single bench of IHC comprising Justice Athar Minallah issued these orders on a petition titled Dr Farhat siddiqui versus federation of Pakistan.
In his verdict, Justice Athar further directed Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to redress the grievances of overseas Pakistanis about their voting rights being granted to them in the light of judgement of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
The petitioner Dr Farhat Siddique currently residing in United States of America moved the court through his counsel Barrister Dawood Ghazanavi and cited the government of Pakistan through secretary ministry of law, justice and parliamentary affairs and Election Commission of Pakistan through its secretary as respondents.
Dr Farhat has stated in her petition that she is an overseas Pakistani living in USA, by profession a doctor and businesswoman, and contributes in the welfare of the native country Pakistan by regularly sending money in the shape of foreign remittance to the country.
She contended that the petitioner’s fundamental right under article 17, 25 and 218(3) of the constitution of Pakistan, is been infringed due to executive/federal government not extending the facility of right to vote to overseas Pakistanis in all kinds of elections in Pakistan.
Her counsel argued that the Supreme Court in PLD 2014 SC 72 para 13, Annexure A, states, “Article 17 of the Constitution of Pakistan insists upon the federal government to extend the facility of voting to overseas Pakistanis in the election of the parliament as well as local bodies.”
Barrister Dawood maintained that the apex Supreme Court in PLD 2014 SC 72 “did establish the right to vote for overseas Pakistanis as fundamental right under article 17(2) of the constitution of Pakistan and the executive/federal government is duty-bound to discharge its constitutional/legal obligation to ensure that citizens/voters living outside the country are enable to participate in all kinds of election in future including the forthcoming elections of local bodies.”
He continued that the Supreme Court in PLD 2014 SC 72 clarified that the overseas Pakistanis enjoy the right to participate in the election process in term of Article 17 of the constitution of Pakistan being dignified citizens of the country, though residing outside its territory, as such they cannot be denied the same rights on technical grounds i.e. logistic arrangements made outside the country casting their votes. “That there is no distinction between the citizens living within Pakistan or outside the country, with regard to the right to vote in term of the article 17 of the constitution.
The only difference is that the citizens living within the country have been provided the facilities to cast their vote in the elections, but the overseas Pakistanis are still deprived of such facility/arrangements to cast their vote, and not been treated fairly and justly, hence executive and ECP not fulfilling their constitutional duty,” added the counsel.
He adopted before the court that the Election Laws (Amendment) Ordinance, 2013 did lapse after its constitutional age without been presented to the parliament for converting it into the act of parliament for providing permanency to its provisions, and granting permanent voting facility to the overseas Pakistanis.
Ghazanavi said that due to the lapse of the said ordinance, the overseas Pakistanis have again lost the facility of voting in the forthcoming elections of Parliament as well as local bodies. He stated that there are over 8 million overseas Pakistanis who are as much important as those living inside the country. They contribute to the welfare of the state, well-being of the citizens and good governance of the country by providing financial support through their families living inside Pakistan.
Therefore, he prayed that the instant petition may kindly be accepted and respondents be directed to take all those steps which are necessary for the implementation of the fundamental right of vote to all overseas Pakistanis including making logistical arrangements in consulates and embassies of Pakistan all over the world before all types of upcoming elections in Pakistan and an opportunity be provided to overseas Pakistanis of casting their votes.