Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan moved the Supreme Court on Monday against the Election (Amendment) Bill 2022 seeking to declare it “unconstitutional”.
The ex-premier filed the petition through Advocate Uzair Karamat Bhandari against the bill, which was recently passed by the National Assembly and restricted overseas Pakistanis from voting in general elections.
The petition prayed that the apex court should declare the amendment “unconstitutional, ultra vires and void ab initio,” and to strike it down.
It emphasised that Section 94(1) of the Elections Act 2021 remains the “existing law” and that all institutions, “especially the ECP [Election Commission of Pakistan] and NADRA [National Database and Registration Authority], are bound to act in accordance with it.”
The petitioner prayed to the court to direct the electoral watchdog and all relevant authorities to take necessary steps to provide overseas Pakistanis the right to vote; especially in the upcoming general elections.
“In particular… direct the ECP to grant the necessary approvals and funds to NADRA for developing the new I-Voting System as detailed in the NADRA proposal within a strict timeframe,” read the petition.
The petition also requested the SC to grant a continuing mandamus and supervise the process of putting in place a system for ensuring that overseas Pakistanis are permitted to vote. It further reiterated that the apex court must act timely so that overseas Pakistanis are able to vote in the upcoming elections.
The National Assembly on May 26, passed the Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2022 – removing the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) and effectively disallowing overseas Pakistanis from voting in the next general polls.
The bill was passed with a majority vote, with only MNAs belonging to the Grand Democratic Alliance opposing it.
The legislation aims to conduct pilot projects in local by-elections before using i-voting and EVMs in the next general elections.
Subject to controversy, President Dr Arif Alvi did not approve the bill, that sought to reverse the changes made in the election laws by the previous PTI regime – terming the proposed legislation as “regressive”.
In a statement issued by the President’s Secretariat, Alvi noted that he had been pursuing the issues of EVMs and voting for overseas Pakistanis with all governments, in parliament and with the Supreme Court for over a decade.
He added that even though the bill could become an act of parliament, he would not sign it, though with a “heavy heart”, for the sake of future generations and the country. “I want to write down my arguments and ideas for future generations,” he said while expressing his disapproval.