The Election Commission of Pakistan has given a seven-day deadline to the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs to amend the Constitution in order to make legal provision to conduct fresh delimitation of constituencies before final population census results are officially notified.
The ECP had another huddle on Friday on issue of fresh delimitation as per this year’s population headcount. Chaired by Chief Election Commissioner Justice (retd) Sardar Raza, the meeting was attended by secretaries of Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs and Statistics Division and the chief statistician of the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Secretary ECP Babar Yaqoob said if the commission started delimitation process from November 1, it would hardly be able to complete it by April 2018 deadline.
New election laws stipulate that the ECP has to finalise polling scheme and delimitation at least six months prior to general elections. According to the law, the election commission has to complete all preparations by April as the general elections are due in August-September 2018.
Under existing constitutional provision, the ECP can hold delimitation only after census data is officially notified. The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics has said that it will do so in April next year.
Babar Yaqoob said the ECP cannot start work on delimitation unless legal provision permitted it do so, adding that Rs4 billion will be required to carry out fresh delimitation and revision of electoral rolls.
Besides final census data, the ECP also needs digital maps with description of areas and clearly-marked boundaries of the national and provincial assemblies’ constituencies to carry out the exercise that will require six to seven months to complete. And since the commission will not be able to obtain the said data from the PBS by April next year, it leaves the ECP in a quandary on how to go about the delimitation process.
The last delimitation exercise was carried out before the 2002 general elections. In two subsequent elections in 2008 and 2013, ‘re-description’ of the constituencies had been done since no population census had taken place till then. However, the way delimitations were conducted in 2002 has always been questioned.
If boundaries for the national and provincial assemblies’ constituencies are marked in accordance with the 1998 census, hundreds of thousands of new census blocks, involving more than 20 million people, will be left out of the polling exercise.
Meanwhile, Speaker National Assembly Ayaz Sadiq has called parliamentary leaders of all political parties represented in Parliament on November 1 to discuss the issue.