Overseas Pakistanis can swing elections in 20 hotly-contested constituencies

Geo News investigates impact overseas voters can potentially have in important constituencies from districts Rawalpindi, Gujranwala, Faisalabad and Sialkot

Zahid Gishkori
Almost 10 million Pakistani nationals have a National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis (NICOP), which makes them eligible to the right to vote in upcoming elections. Photo: Geo.tv/ file
Almost 10 million Pakistani nationals have a National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis (NICOP), which makes them eligible to the right to vote in upcoming elections. Photo: Geo.tv/ file

  • Nearly 0.7 million overseas voters registered in 20 important NA constituencies, Geo News finds.
  • Geo News takes up important constituencies from four districts to investigate how overseas voters can influence upcoming polls.
  • The four districts are Rawalpindi, Gujranwala, Faisalabad and Sialkot.

ISLAMABAD: Almost 0.7 million overseas voters are registered in 20 hotly-contested constituencies, where the margin of victory was quite narrow in the 2018 general elections, as Geo News seeks to figure out the possible impact of overseas voters in the upcoming polls.

In a first, Geo News obtained access to official statistics, which showed that 20 important districts of Pakistan collectively host over 0.7 million overseas voters who could swing the elections in favour of any particular party in many constituencies, according to the official figures. 

In these constituencies, as many as 8.1 million voters are registered.

Almost 10 million Pakistani nationals have a National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis (NICOP), which makes them eligible to the right to vote in upcoming elections from nearly 200 countries.

Overseas Pakistanis can swing elections in 20 hotly-contested constituencies

Geo News took up important constituencies from four districts, Rawalpindi, Gujranwala, Faisalabad and Sialkot, and investigated how the overseas voters in these constituencies could potentially make an impact in the upcoming polls.

Rawalpindi district

District Rawalpindi collectively has 406,843 potential overseas voters in its seven NA constituencies. 

Overseas Pakistanis can swing elections in 20 hotly-contested constituencies

In the 2018 polls, the PTI and its ally Awami Muslim League of Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed won six of these NA seats and one seat went to PPP’s Raja Pervaiz Ashraf. None of the contests were close and all saw a 10% or more difference between winners and the runner-up, except on NA-57, where PML-N's Shahid Khaqan lost with a margin of only 5% votes to his PTI rival. 

If an overseas voters' scenario played out, PTI could gain between 28,000 to 71,000 voters in the district to become stronger. But this would depend on the candidate it fields and other ground realities, the same as Sialkot district where the PML-N had maintained a 47% share in votes in 2008 and 2013, however, it got 12% less in the same district in 2018.

Sialkot district

There are a total of 357,700 potential overseas voters in District Sialkot's five NA constituencies. 

NA-73 saw a victory margin of 1,406 votes in favour of PML-N’s Khawaja Asif in the 2018 elections. The constituency has 93,372 potential overseas voters and different scenarios show that it could gain between 6,535 to 16,340 votes in the constituency, Geo News' investigation found. 

If these scenarios play out, the seat could tilt towards the PTI. There are, however, many variables for the outcome to be certain. 

The PML-N has maintained its vote bank in Sialkot in 2013 and 2018, as well as the recent by-election. The party has been winning all seats since 2008, with the exception of one that they lost to the PPP in 2008.

NA-74 is another potential Sialkot constituency that could get affected. The vote difference in here was only 2%. 

In the remaining three constituencies, the difference was more than 15% and it is unlikely overseas voters would be able to change that, unless of course they participate in large numbers. 

According to the research, if we apply the 10% incumbency factor, the PTI would lose in its share of domestic votes too. The by-poll in NA-75, however, did not show a dent on PTI's vote bank by much.

Faisalabad district

The PML-N swept Faisalabad in 2013 with a vote share of 57%, however, PTI dented its vote share in 2018 and reduced it significantly by 23% compared to 2013. The PTI won six out of 10 seats, while PML-N could win on only two. The difference in votes between both parties was around 156,000. 

Despite its 2013 clean sweep aside, Faisalabad cannot be considered a hub for PML-N as it only won three seats in 2008 too. 

So the Faisalabad district has been on and off for the party. Overseas scenarios mentioned above are unlikely to have a significant impact on the results in the district.

Gujranwala district

District Gujranwala has six NA seats.

It is known to be the PML-N’s hub as the party has won all seats in the district comfortably in the 2013 and 2018 elections. It seems unlikely that the outcome would change after an addition of overseas voters.

The difference of votes between the PML-N and PTI in the district was above 250,000 in 2018 and it is highly unlikely to be covered by overseas voters.

A breakdown of the results from the 2018 polls

PTI’s MNA Khial Zaman won by a margin of 728 votes in Hangu, which has 77,563 expat votes, which is 25.4% of total 305,209 votes. The NA-190 which has 69,637 NICOP (18.4%) holders was a closely contested constituency where PTI’s MNA Farooq Khosa won by 129 votes. This constituency has 378,286 total votes in district Dera Ghazi Khan.

PML-N’s MNA Zulfiqar Bhatti won his seat with a margin of 78 votes only in the last elections in NA-91, Sargodha. This constituency has 28,879 overseas votes, out of total 511,807 votes, according to official records.

Awami National Party’s MNA Amir Haider Hoti defeated his opponent with a thin margin of 152 votes in NA-21, which has had more than 50,412 overseas votes in the constituency, which has total votes of over 471,058 votes. PTI’s MNA Talib Nakai won by 249 votes in NA-140 which has total 15, 287 expat votes in the constituency having total votes of 533,808 in Kasur while Muhammad Akram defeated his opponent with margin of 350 votes in NA-239 which has 43,239 overseas’ votes.

Overseas Pakistanis can swing elections in 20 hotly-contested constituencies

The constituency of MNA Sahibzada Mehboob of PTI had over 11,961 overseas votes where victory margin was only 538 votes in NA-114 Jhang in the previous poll. This constituency has total votes of 579,760. Naveed Dero of NA-215 grabbed victory with 568 votes by defeating his opponent in a constituency which had 7,960 overseas votes of total 366,452 votes.

The constituency of independent MNA Mohsin Javid Dawar has had 19.1pc (71,199) overseas votes in his NA-48, Waziristan, witnessed a victory margin of only 1,167 votes in 2018 elections. The constituency has a total 371,892 votes.

Prime Minister Imran Khan defeated PML-N’s Khawaja Saad Rafique with a margin of 756 votes in NA-131, Lahore, where this constituency has had 45,074 (11pc) overseas votes with registration of total 409,541 votes, the investigation report stated.

It added that Federal Minister Fehmida Mirza has had a margin of only 997 votes in her constituency NA-230, which has 1,365 overseas votes in Badin. Faisal Vawda of PTI had defeated PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif with a margin of 723 votes in NA-249, Karachi, where 15,025 overseas’ votes were registered in 2018. This constituency has a total 341,394 votes.

The constituency of PML-N’s Khawaja Asif has had over 93,371 expats in NA-73, which has a total number of 538,482 registered voters in Sialkot. Victory margin remained 1,406 votes in this constituency in the 2018 elections. 

Lastly, State Information Minister Farrukh Habib witnessed a margin of 1,275 votes in NA-108, which had 29, 469 overseas of 481,462 total votes in Faisalabad.