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Electronic voting machine (For illustrative purposes only) Image Credit: Gulf News Achives

Islamabad: Pakistan’s National Assembly passed the Elections (Amendment) Bill 2022 cancelling the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the next general elections and the voting rights of Pakistani citizens living abroad.

The amendments have reversed the reforms introduced by the previous Imran Khan government to facilitate around nine million overseas Pakistanis.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Murtaza Javed Abbasi presented the Bill on Thursday in the Lower House of Parliament and it was passed with a majority vote.

The Bill will now be sent to the Senate for approval and then to the president.

Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar refuted the impression that the amendments were aimed at depriving overseas Pakistanis of their right to vote.

“Overseas Pakistanis are a precious asset of the country and the government does not believe in snatching their right to vote,” he said.

The law minister also explained that the government was not against the use of technology, saying, “we only have concerns about the misuse of technology as the results transmission system had failed in last general elections to favour a particular political party.”

Two amendments have also been introduced in Sections 94 and 103 of the Election Act 2017 which suggest that the ECP may conduct pilot projects for overseas voting and the use of EVMs.

In 2018, the Supreme Court directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) to develop a system for providing the effective right to vote to overseas Pakistanis, underlining that every citizen has the right to vote under Article 17 of the Constitution.