x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Pakistanis in UAE fly out to ensure vote counts

Fed up with delays and confusion over whether they would be allowed to vote as overseas residents, many are choosing to vote in person.

DUBAI // Despite security fears, many Pakistanis living in the UAE are planning to fly home to vote in Saturday’s elections.

Fed up with delays and confusion over whether they would be allowed to vote as overseas residents, many are choosing to vote in person.

“I think the long delay in deciding if we would be allowed to vote in the UAE has annoyed many people,” said Mobisher Rabbani, a diplomatic consultant who arrived in Pakistan yesterday morning.

“I had initially planned to cast my vote in Dubai but as the date has got closer to the election I had to make a decision either way if I was going to fly back or not.”

Mr Rabbani said many Pakistanis, particularly the younger generation who were voting for the first time, were determined to have a say in how the country was run.

“I’m not sure on exact numbers but I expect hundreds of people to be flying back for the vote,” he said.

“There is great enthusiasm for these elections because it is the first time we have had a civilian government complete its full term and there will be no delay in elections.”

Although Mr Rabbani had some security worries, he considered his home city of Sialkot to be safe.

“I won’t be out electioneering for political parties,” he said. “I’ll just go to a polling station and cast my vote and that’s it. After that I’ll fly back to Dubai on Sunday or Monday.”

Abeer Khan, 24, was going back to vote out of a sense of duty.

“This is the first time I will be voting and I will be flying out to Karachi on the day of the election,” Ms Khan said.

“I am concerned about the safety situation, especially in Karachi, because there have been a number of attacks in the recent weeks.”

She was concerned that she could be stranded at the airport if there were security problems but was determined to vote.

Aisha Yaqub is flying out on Friday, having spent Dh1,230 on flights.

“I made my decision two weeks ago that I would vote in person,” Ms Yaqub said.

“I think if overseas Pakistanis were allowed to vote it would have made a big difference to the election and Imran Khan would have won.

“Overseas Pakistanis send over billions of dollars in remittance every year and not allowing us the opportunity to vote isn’t fair.”

Several of her friends and family were also planning to fly back.

The Pakistani election commission has been locked in talks with the country’s supreme court to allow overseas voting, but with four days left before polls open there has been no breakthrough.

nhanif@thenational.ae