Responding to a petition regarding the Election (Amendment) Bill, 2022 the Chief Justice IHC Athar Minallah observed on Wednesday that no amendments made to the Elections Act, 2017 by the incumbent coalition government could prevent overseas Pakistanis from casting vote.
The petition was filed with the honorable court by solicitor Dawood Ghazanavi and dual national Atif Iqbal Khan in which Federation and ECP had been made respondents.
This in important to know that on May 26, the National Assembly passed Elections (Amendment) Bill 2022 and National Accountability (Second Amendment) Bill which resulted in reversal of election laws including the implementation of EVMs and i-voting for overseas Pakistanis while the latter bill was related to restricting the powers of NAB. Both election laws were implemented by the previous PTI government.
Our main concern is that the present government made amendment to the Section-94 of the Election (Amendment) Act, 2022, petitioners contended
The petitioners contended that they had moved the Supreme Court for the survival of their fundamental rights of vote as overseas Pakistanis.
In 2018, the apex court had ordered the ECP to do the needful for overseas Pakistanis so that they might cast their vote in by-polls as a pilot project. In the petition filed in the IHC, the petitioners said that the main concern was that the present government had made amendment in Section 94 in the Elections (Amendment) Act, 2022 which not only deprived the overseas from their fundamental right of vote but also set aside the judgment made by the Supreme Court 3-member bench which was headed by the then Chief Justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar earlier in 2018.
The election amendment bill set aside the Supreme Court’s 2018 judgment in the said connection, petition further stated
The petition further stated that the ECP was also bound to formulate a mechanism for securing the fundamental voting right of overseas Pakistanis.
The said amendment not only violated the fundamental rights but also challenged the decision of the SC in connection with the act of parliament by the PTI government.
The petition said that that the previous government had secured the fundamental voting rights of the overseas Pakistanis through legislation so as to ensure the enforcement of the fundamental right to vote for overseas Pakistanis however the present government simply took away all these rights from them.
It noted that the government’s “mala fide intent” could be easily identified through their move of passing the Elections (Amendment) Act, 2022 in a single day without any debate or discussion in the house. It requested the honorable court to declare the amendment null and void.
Advocate Arif Chaudhry appeared before the IHC for today’s hearing as Ghazanavi’s representative. During the hearing, the Chief Justice Athar Minallah asked the petitioner’s counsel the exact number of Pakistanis which were living abroad to which Chaudhry replied that the number of overseas Pakistanis was nine million.
The IHC CJ observed that the amendments which were introduced by the previous government were not in line with the Supreme Court’s verdict. He further noted that the most recent amendment did not take away the right to vote from the overseas Pakistanis.
The court adjourned the hearing till June 03, 2022 seeking more arguments on the maintainability of the said petition.