End delimitation of constituencies impasse

THOUGH some political parties have entered into election mode and frequently holding public rallies to garner maximum public support ahead of elections, yet at the same time they also need to fulfil their responsibilities within Parliament and work towards ending the current stalemate in Parliament on the passage of the constitutional amendment for delimitation of constituencies as without this process there cannot be any elections.
After the passage of the Election Reforms bill 2017, it is now a constitutional requirement to undergo delimitation of constituencies after every census. As official results of the census were not released, the ECP had asked Parliament to immediately amend the constitution to give legal cover to the drive. Realising importance of the matter, Speaker National Assembly Ayaz Sadiq promptly chaired two rounds of talks with parliamentary leaders and it was announced before media that the parties have finalised a draft bill for delimitation of constituencies. At that time, no opposition member raised any objection against the bill but it is surprising that now when the consensus document was presented before the National Assembly on Thursday, three main opposition parties including PPP, PTI and MQM negated their earlier stance and raised different objections to the amendment. MQM had reservations on the population census while the PPP wanted passage of the constitutional amendment after approval from the Council of Common Interests. Leader of Opposition Khurshid Shah in an interview also said that supporting the bill would amount to endorsing the provisional results of the ‘controversial census’ carried out in the country earlier this year. This really shows that both the parties are playing to the galleries. Had they any reservations, these would have been discussed and get addressed at the level of parliamentary leaders’ meeting. The constitutional amendment — approval of which requires two-thirds majority — was part of the agenda of the lower house on Friday also but it was not taken up for approval as most of the seats of treasury benches were empty clearly showing how our political leadership give serious attention to important matters. In fact it is not a time to sit on the document as the ECP has already made it clear that it requires six months to complete the process of delimitation. Any delay in the passage of the amendment will only provide fuel to those who already are making prophecies about the technocrat government and ‘no election’ next year. The general elections must be held on time and smooth transition of power should take place, as the exercise is imperative for continuity and strengthening of democratic set-up in the country. We believe all the parties also desire the same but they now need to demonstrate seriousness, sit together again, resolve their differences and get the constitutional amendment passed during the current week so that the ECP has ample time to efficiently complete its work.

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