ISLAMABAD - The PML-N government's plan to link the local bodies elections in Punjab with the conduct of fresh population census in the country would further delay these elections at primary tier of governance for another year or so.
Sources in the government informed The Nation on Sunday that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Council of Common Interests (CCI) had given approval to the Election Commission of Pakistan's summary for conducting the long overdue population census in the country and soon the same would be presented before the Federal Cabinet and then Parliament for final approval.
The sources further informed that after the approval the government would take a new stance that the delimitation of the constituencies for local bodies would be done in the light of the fresh population census so these elections should be delayed till the completion of the population census.
Political analysts said that the ruling PML-N wanted to avoid the local bodies elections across Punjab for another year or so keeping in view the sharp decline in its popularity particularly in the urban centres of the province.
It was in this backdrop that when the apex court had exerted pressure on the government for holding of local bodies elections and at time it seemed unavoidable the PML-N leadership had decided to hold these elections on non-party basis to save their public image in case of defeat, these analysts added.
The sources confirmed that it was decided in principle that the local bodies elections would be held after the fresh population census and delimitation of the constituencies.
A senior PML-N Parliamentarian said that though they could not give any fix timeframe for holding of local bodies elections but confirmed that these elections would be held after the sixth population census, as the fresh population census is constitutional requirement for delimiting the constituencies be it for National or provincial assembly seats or for the local bodies.
Another senior party leader in ruling PML-N said that most likely the local bodies elections would be held sometime in early next year as according to him, the holding of population census and compiling of data would at least consume six to eight months provided the process is initiated right now.
The last census in the country was held in 1998 and since then the successive governments in the country failed to meet this constitutional obligation. The sixth population census was due in 2008 but owing to poor law and order situation the matter was deferred.
Later, in 2010 on the direction of Council of Common Interests (CCI) the then Pakistan People's Party led coalition government had announced population census in 2011 but the matter was once again put in limbo and government could only managed house listing exercise only a part of the exercise.
When asked the sources in the government said that no time frame for holding of the fresh population census could be given as to complete the whole exercise of getting the Election Commission of Pakistan's summary approved from Federal Cabinet and then Parliament could at least take another couple of months.