Extending voting rights to Pakistani expatriates has been an on-going consideration by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). On Wednesday, Jamaat-i-Islami Emir Sirajul Haq, decided to add his two cents to the debate. He called on the government to make the necessary arrangements, yet, only for the 2 million Pakistanis working in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

He made these statements while returning from a trip from the Kingdom, and it is understandable that his affection for the holy lands must be soaring at that moment, yet on what grounds does Mr Sirajul Haq call for voting rights to be extended to only one specific portion of the Pakistani diaspora? Do the rest not deserve an equal say? Does working in Saudi Arabia make you eligible for special consideration? Sadly Mr Haq didn’t clarify. While enfranchisement of expatriates is a legitimate and perhaps exigent goal, yet what the Jamaat-i-Islami Emir is asking for is a blatantly selfish act. Saudi Arabia, with its ultra-orthodox religious regime, is chosen as a destination by Pakistani men of similar mindsets, while Jamaat-i-Islami maintains a sizeable presence in the country too. Mr Sirajul Haq doesn’t see ‘abandoned overseas Pakistanis’ as he claims, he sees two million votes for his party.

His demand might have been fair had he previously campaigned for either universal franchise or the plight of overseas Pakistanis. The Kingdom merrily executes Pakistanis on a regular basis, most of whom are simple workers tricked into becoming ‘mules’ for drug dealers. Not once has Sirajul Haq raised a voice for them. Women in his province are barred from voting in certain constituencies due to pacts struck between contesting candidates, a major portion of whom belong to his party. There is documented evidence that Jamaat-i-Islami candidates entered into informal agreements to bar women from voting in places such as Lower Dir’s provincial assembly seat PK-94 and provincial assembly’s PK-78 in Buner. Before the Emir can ask for voting rights to be extended to people in other countries, he needs to put his province, and more specifically, his party in order.