Consensus on Census

THE controversy surrounding new Population Census threatened timely holding of next general election but thanks to the consensus at meeting of the Council of Common Interests (CCI), it would now be possible to conduct elections on time. This happened when the Federation showed magnanimity in accepting demand of the Sindh province for re-verification of specific census blocks to check authenticity of the head count.
The Election Commission of Pakistan has repeatedly been urging the political parties, Parliament and the government to move ahead with speed in providing constitutional cover for the exercise of new delimitation of constituencies but some parties stalled the process. In the beginning it was claimed that there was no need for fresh delimitation and the elections could be held on the basis of 1998 census but the legal experts including officials of the ECP ruled out the option saying that the Constitution envisages fresh delimitation after every Census. The controversy was unfortunate as the Census was held under a foolproof mechanism and strict security cover and assistance of Pakistan Army. One must give credit to Punjab that its population came down as an overall percentage of the total population of the country and as a result it will have to cede nine National Assembly seats to KP, Balochistan and the Capital Territory. However, strangely enough, it is Sindh that is making hue and cry as the Census result is not commensurate with the imaginary estimates of some people. Anyhow, it is good that the Centre has agreed to the audit of one percent of blocks that would make things clear whether or not the Census was accurate and fair. What is important is that the provinces/parties have agreed for Constitutional amendment required for fresh delimitations, which will allow the Election Commission to initiate work on the process to ensure that the next elections are held on the basis of new Census and new delimitations. It is also imperative that general elections should be held on time to augment democratic process and stability in the country.

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