Each overseas vote cost exchequer Rs15,000 in by-polls

ISLAMABAD: Each vote cast by overseas Pakistanis in Sunday’s by-elections cost the national exchequer over Rs15,000, informed sources told Dawn.

An Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) official said that an amount of Rs95 million was incurred on the exercise to allow the overseas Pakistanis to cast their votes through the internet-voting system.

He said the major chunk was spent on development of i-voting software, adding that other procedural expenses were negligible. He said that out of 7,364 registered overseas voters, only 6,233 cast their votes, with the cost of each vote exceeding Rs15,000.

The ECP had allowed the overseas Pakistanis to vote through internet as a pilot project on the directives of the Supreme Court and declared that the votes would not be included in the count if some controversy cropped up.

However, the ECP has now decided to include overseas Pakistanis’ votes in the final count for the by-polls held in 35 constituencies of National and provincial assemblies.

ECP decides to include expats’ votes in final count; both ruling and opposition parties have improved their numbers

ECP spokesman Chaudhry Nadeem Qasim said that details of all votes cast through internet had been sent to the returning officers (ROs) concerned. “The ROs will add these results to their final tallies,” he added.

During the process of online registration in September, only 7,419 of the 632,000 overseas Pakistanis had got them registered for i-voting and out of them only 6,322 (83.56 per cent) had actually availed of the facility.

The proportion of votes cast by registered overseas voters remained 100pc in only three provincial assembly constituencies where their number was very low — 23 votes cast in PP-222, 20 in PP-164 and only one in PB-35.

In terms of numbers, the constituents from NA-243 (Karachi) settled abroad left all behind — 1,112 (82pc) out of the total 1,353 registered voters availed of i-voting facility.

In NA-131 (Lahore) — where Prime Minister Imran Khan had defeated PML-N stalwart Khawaja Saad Rafique in the July 25 general elections — 991 (88pc) of the total 1,126 registered voters cast their votes, while 561 (80pc) of the 698 registered voters cast their votes in NA-69, 460 (81pc) of the 567 registered voters in NA-53 (Islamabad), 400 (78pc) of the 510 registered voters in NA-124 (Lahore), 281 ((92pc) of the 304 voters in NA-35 (Bannu), 265 (83pc) of the 321 registered voters in NA-63 (Rawalpindi), 257 (82pc) of the 312 registered voters in NA-65 (Chakwal) and 202 (88pc) of the 230 registered voters in NA-56 (Attock).

Among the provincial assembly constituencies, 200 overseas Pakistanis 227 out of the total 253 registered in PP-27 (Jhelum) exercised their right to vote, followed by PK-44 where 149 (81pc) of the 185 registered voters cast their votes through internet.

Party positions

Although the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf has lost some ground by suffering defeat in a few constituencies that it had won in the general elections, the outcome of the by-polls will have no impact on the outlook of the National Assembly where the PTI along with its allies will continue to retain majority.

Both the treasury and opposition parties have improved their numbers in the National Assembly, with the PTI and allies getting six and the opposition parties five seats out of the 11 contested in Sunday’s by-polls.

The latest position of parties in the NA shows that the PTI will now have 155 members whereas the number of PML-N members has increased to 85 from 81. The Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal has also improved its strength in the lower house of parliament with the victory of Zahid Durrani from Bannu. The MMA will now have 16 members in the NA.

With the victories of the sons of Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, the PML-Q has also improved its position in the NA. It will now have five members in the assembly.

The strength of the ruling alliance has now reached 183 in the 341-member house, where one seat is still vacant. The opposition parties will now have 158 members in the house.

The ruling alliance comprises the PTI (155 members), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (seven), PML-Q (five), Balochistan Awami Party (five), Balochistan National Party (four), Grand Democratic Alliance (three), Awami Muslim League (one), Jamhoori Watan Party (one) and two independents.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz with 85 seats is the largest party in the opposition group, followed by the Pakistan Peoples Party (54 seats), MMA (16), Awami National Party (one) and two independents.

Published in Dawn