Voting in Pakistan
An exercise with digital and postal voting for overseas Pakistanis failed due to reasons such as slow speed of the internet Mohsin Raza - Reuters

In August this year, the Election Commission of Pakistan had announced its intentions to allow overseas expats to vote in the country's general elections in 2018, as long as they held their citizenship. Keeping with the plan, a mock exercise was conducted to evaluate security, among other things.

The Pakistani embassy in Riyadh, the High Commission in London and its consulates in New York, Dubai, Manchester, Bradford and Glasgow carried out the test. Employees at the foreign missions were asked to participate in the exercise, by voting for fictitious candidates, via two means — postal and online ballots.

According to The Dawn, officials at the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) informed the parliamentary committee on electoral reforms that the mock exercise had failed for various technical and legal reasons. Minister for Climate Change Zahid Hamid, convener of the committee, told reporters that the briefing on Tuesday (25 November) by ECP and National Database & Registration Authority (Nadra) concluded that the project of allowing overseas Pakistanis to vote in the general elections was not feasible.

Hamid pointed out that the electronic voting machines failed in the mock exercise due to internet connectivity issue and added that a majority of political parties in the committee were not in favour of the project. The ECP now plans to set up a cell that will focus on research and the means to incorporate expats in the country's electoral process.

Additionally, officials of the commission have written to the United Nations Development Programme to prepare a feasibility report on the issue of voting for overseas Pakistanis and possible solutions to overcome hurdles.