ISLAMABAD(SPECAIL REPORT) :-Pakistan on Wednesday joined 43 other nations that allow expatriates to vote in elections back home. However, the move has also sparked a debate whether expats “who don’t have to pay for water tankers and UPS batteries” should have the right to vote in Pakistan’s elections.
The debate is significant because not all 43 other countries allow the kind of voting rights to their overseas citizen that Pakistan has just extended to its citizen living in foreign territories.
India, to begin with, does not allow its people to hold dual nationality. Since 2010, expatriate Indian citizens have been allowed to vote in all Indian elections provided they have not acquired the citizenship of another country. If an Indian becomes a citizen of another nation, his right to vote in elections back home stands forfeited. Pakistani expatriates, however, have been allowed to hold their dual nationality and vote in Pakistan’s elections.
The United Kingdom allows its overseas citizens to vote provided they are registered as British nationals living outside the country. There is a caveat, however. British citizens can register as overseas electors only after spending 15 years outside the country.
Australia has similar rules. Aussies living abroad may vote if they register to vote within three years of leaving and intend to return to Australia within six years of leaving.
The United States and France allow expatriates to vote in elections with no strings attached.
Israel is also on the list of 44 nations that allow expats to vote, but the conditions set by the Israeli parliament are hilarious. Israeli overseas citizens need to travel to Israel in order to vote because voting is only possible in ballot boxes and ballot boxes are set up only inside Israel.
Germany has the most elaborate mechanism for expat voters. They can vote in German parliamentary elections and European Parliament elections if they have resided in Germany for an uninterrupted period of at least three months since their 14th birthday and within the last 25 years or they have a close personal and direct relationship with German politics and are personally affected by political developments in Germany.
Belgium allows registered voters to vote in national elections but not in regional or local elections.
Guinea-Bissau has two overseas constituencies: one for Africa and one for Europe.
Turkey allowed its overseas citizens to vote in 2012.
Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Finland, Austria and many other nations allow expatriates to vote in presidential and parliamentary elections. Overseas voters from these countries use either postal ballots or vote at a diplomatic mission of their country.
For Brazilian expatriates voting is compulsory.
Debate in Pakistan
Unlike citizens of 43 other nations who vote mostly using postal ballots, Pakistani expatriates would be voting in the general election using a proposed I-Voting system.
There are 8 million Pakistanis living outside the country, and they can swing elections in certain constituencies in major cities back home, SAMAA TV reported on Thursday.
Many Pakistani expatriates have welcomed the bill passed by Parliament to allow them voting rights.
Not everyone is happy though, especially those living in Pakistan and facing the ground realities.
Videos went viral soon after Parliament passed the bill.
In one of the viral videos, Khurram Qureshi says overseas Pakistanis should not get the right to vote in Pakistan’s elections because they do not have to refill their natural gas cylinders every other day or phone the water tanker guy to replenish the supply. They don’t have to pay for the replacement of UPS batteries every two years, he said.
“I don’t think you have the right to decide that who would form the government in this country” if you are not living here, he argues.
“That’s very simple. If you’re not living in Pakistan, you don’t get to decide who is ruling Pakistan.”
He ends the video urging ministers to as well care about “Pakistanis who are living in the country.”
The same sentiments were shared by many others. Ali Gilani said, “those who have passed the voting rights bill for Pakistanis living abroad are requested to pass the voting rights bill for Pakistanis at home now.”
Dr Ayesha Naved recorded two videos and shared them on Twitter. She said overseas Pakistanis, especially dual nationals, had no right to vote in Pakistan’s general elections because they did not face the problems a citizen living in the country did.
She attacked the argument that expatriates deserved the right to vote because they send remittances to the country and, thus, helped the economy. If that was the criteria, she says, the IMF and the European countries and the UAE also give Pakistan money. “We should allow them the right to vote in Pakistan’s election then.”
In her diatribe, she ends up using strong language. However, the video generated thousands of likes and retweets.
Many overseas Pakistanis countered her arguments by saying that they knew the ground realities in Pakistan because they had left the country to earn and to end poverty back home.
Some overseas Pakistanis claimed they will make better choices after being given the voting right than those living in Pakistan.
Dr. Muhammad Ramzan (@drramzan2000) in a reply to Khurram Qureshi said, “I think you don’t have the right to decide. You voted for 70 years and results are obvious. Let us participate too. We will not decide on a plate of biryani, qeema nan or any other fears. Overseas have the right to vote. Thx Imran khan.”
What do you think about the expatriates right to vote? Should Pakistanis living outside the country be allowed to vote in the general elections. Leave us a comment.
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