Elections not possible before October: ECP

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The Election Commission of Pakistan informed President Arif Alvi on Thursday that it cannot hold the next general elections within three months and suggested that the process be held in October as the delimitation of constituencies was not completed.

In a letter, the ECP informed President Alvi that it is entrusted with holding elections “honestly, justly and fairly”. The body also informed the president that the “delimitation of constituencies is one of the foundational steps towards election”.

“According to Article 51(5) of the Constitution and Section 17 of Elections Act, 2017, delimitation of constituencies is conducted on the basis of population in accordance with the last census officially published,” said the ECP.

The body said that the “provisional results of 6th national census 2017” were published on January 3, 2018, and it was authorised to carry out “delimitation of national and provincial assemblies” on the provisional results “one-time” via the amendment made under Article 51(5) of the Constitution.

The ECP stated that the final publication of the official results of the census was a “constitutional requirement for delimitation of constituencies” for the next general elections.

The president was also informed that the ECP had taken up the matter with the Imran Khan-led government multiple times via letters to the Ministry of Law and Justice, Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, and secretaries of the Senate and National Assembly since 2020.

The ECP further explained that under the 25th amendment, seats allocated to the former federally-administrated tribal areas were merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

“12 seats allocated to FATA were abolished and six seats were allocated to KP on the basis of population. Resultantly, the number of seats in the National Assembly was reduced to 266 from 272. For this reason, fresh delimitation was not possible due to the non-publication of official census results by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics,” said the ECP.

The ECP said that the Council of Common Interests published the sixth census results after which it started the delimitation process and “approved timelines for delimitation of constituencies for national and provincial assemblies”.

The ECP said that it had to halt the process after the government had announced holding a fresh digital census.

“Subsequently, letters dated 30-09-2021 and 21-01-2022 (Annexures C-I-C-H) were written to the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs for finalisation and publication of fresh digital census results by the end of the year 2022 so that the process of delimitation could be initiated and completed well within time as the digital census was planned to be completed by March 2023. However, the election commission did not receive any response from the concerned ministry, thereby further delaying the process of delimitation,” said the ECP.

The electoral body reminded President Alivi that it was “not the sole authority to make decisions with regards to the conduct of elections,” adding that it “remains dependent” on the federal and provincial governments.

“…for the required feedback in case of any inaction or delay on the part of any government to perform its duties and to assist the commission, the delay in the conduct of delimitation cannot be attributed to the commission by any stretch of the imagination,” said the ECP.

“The Election Commission though fully committed to holding elections, would however require at least four additional months to complete the exercise of delimitation. Elections could safely be held honestly justly fairly as ordained in Article 18(3) of the constitution in October 2022,” said the ECP. To further deliberate the issue, the ECP has also requested President Alvi to hold a meeting.

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