Doha-based Malik Tasneem, 44, is very excited about the right to vote for overseas Pakistanis. Born in Sialkot and raised in Doha, he has never voted because he could not make it to Pakistan for any election.
“It is a great moment for us. We want to exercise our right to vote and choose a Pakistani parliamentarian of our choice. Thanks to Supreme Court for this,” Tasneem tells TNS via telephone.
A large number of Pakistanis living in Qatar either run businesses or work in companies. “My family and other relatives have been discussing the issue of i-voting. We want to vote. But it is difficult for working people to come to Pakistan to vote. Sometimes circumstances do not allow that,” he says. “My parents cast vote in a few previous elections when they were in Pakistan.”
Some reports suggest that among overseas Pakistanis returning home to vote in the 2018 elections, most came from the Middle East. Another report highlights that at least six Pakistani expatriates living in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) contested elections in Pakistan.
“Casting vote in Pakistan is even more important when you do not have the right to vote in a country you presently live in,” says Haseeb Ahmed, a businessman who lives in the UAE and comes to cast vote in every general election. “This gives us ownership of democracy and a role in making the government in our own country. In the last two elections, I came to Pakistan to support PTI.”
He says expatriate Pakistanis “should support the political process and enroll as overseas voters to make this country better and more democratic”.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE have the largest number of Pakistanis. Saudi Arabia hosts nearly 2 million and UAE 1.2 million. Nearly half a million Pakistanis live in Qatar, Kuwait and Oman.
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According to a report by National Bank of Pakistan, the country’s labour force in the Middle East is the biggest contributor to the remittances sent home as almost 70 per cent of the amount comes from that region alone. The earliest migrant workers in Saudi Arabia and the UAE in the 1950s and 1960s were from Pakistan.