The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday indicated that holding general elections may not be possible before May 2023 as it outlined the timeline of processes — including the census and delimitation — that it said must be conducted before the country can go to polls.
In a press release issued by the body’s Media Coordination and Outreach Wing, the commission said that it had received a letter from the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) on April 18 stating that the seventh population and housing census would be initiated from August 1.
According to the statement, the ECP would be provided the results of the fresh census on December 31.
In such a scenario, the delimitation of constituencies being conducted by the ECP on the basis of the 2017 census would become “irrelevant” and the electoral watchdog would be bound by the Constitution to start the process anew from January 1, 2023 — which would require at least four months. “Similarly, electoral lists will also need to be reviewed,” the press release added.
The electoral watchdog, constituted under Article 218 of the Constitution, is tasked with delimiting the national and provincial level constituencies. The ECP, per the Election Act 2017, is legally bound to start the delimitation process after every census and at least four months prior to the scheduled polling day. Earlier this month, the commission had ordered delimitation of National and provincial assembly constituencies on a war-footing, without waiting for the digital census to commence. Subsequently, it had announced the delimitation schedule, freezing the boundaries of administrative units across the country.
The schedule came days after the ECP had the expressed inability to conduct general elections before October, citing legal hitches including absence of delimitation, an essential prerequisite for polls, inviting scathing criticism from the then ruling PTI.