x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

No overseas voting, confirms Pakistani ambassador to UAE

A late-breaking deal to include 45 polling booths set up across the country fails to materialise before tomorrow's polling.

ABU DHABI // The UAE's 1.2 million Pakistani expatriates will not be able to vote in tomorrow's elections, the country's ambassador to the UAE announced yesterday.

Jamil Ahmed Khan finally ended the confusion by saying those who wanted to vote would have to fly home. But for most that was not realistic.

"I have asked my community members to participate in the general election and many will be travelling there from the Emirates," Mr Khan said.

"Many Pakistanis who understand the importance of a single vote and their rights will participate in the voting process. It's their right and, of course, they must use it."

"This is a one-chance voting opportunity for all countrymen, whether they live in the country or overseas.

The news did not go down well with some members of the Pakistani community in Dubai.

"It's really unfair that they aren't going to allow us to vote," said Shafiq Hassan. "I can't understand why it would have been so difficult to set things up to let us vote.

"Other countries allow their overseas citizens to vote, why can't we?"

Imran Habib agreed, accusing the election commission in Pakistan of deliberately denying expatriates their voting rights.

"There are millions of expatriate Pakistanis around the world and we would have made a big difference to the elections," Mr Habib said.

"I think the vested interests in Pakistani politics were afraid of that."

But Tabinda Al Ghizala, the principal of the Sheikh Khalifa Pakistani School in Abu Dhabi, said he understood how "certain logistic and other reasons" meant voting from the UAE was not available. "I don't feel anything about the fact that it's not happening this year because there could be some shortage of time to arrange all logistics," Mr Al Ghizala said.

"Managing a big electorate of overseas Pakistanis is also a big challenge. I would have been very happy if granted the right to vote here but it's OK."

There had been confusion over whether expatriates would have the opportunity to vote in tomorrow's election from stations set up in the UAE.

Pakistan's minister for overseas workers last month told countrymen in Dubai he was in favour of them being able to vote.

The Pakistani election commission had been in talks with the country's supreme court to allow overseas voting, but no breakthrough was made.

The confusion has forced hundreds of Pakistanis to fly home to vote, but far more will have no say in how their country is run.

Mr Khan said preparations had been made for 45 polling booths at nine polling stations across the UAE. "We made arrangements for polling stations across the Emirates after receiving positive signals from the concerned authorities and we were awaiting the final go-ahead from the election commission of Pakistan, which we could not get," he said.

"But we can expect the Election Commission to allow for the next elections."