More than one-fifth of constituencies in different delimitation exceed 10pc population variation: FAFEN

Claims difference among constituency populations can be calculated and pointed out by comparing a constituency’s population

ISLAMABAD  -  Over one-fifth of the constituencies exceeded the 10 per cent population variation in the preliminary list recently issued by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). This was observed by the independent entity Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) in its report over the preliminary list issued by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

The FAFEN argued nearly 180 constituencies of the National and provincial assemblies did not meet the legal preferability of a 10pc variation in the population. Thus, undermining the “principle of equal suffrage” that was otherwise upheld by Parliament through the latest amendments in the Elections Act.

“According to the amendments enacted on August 4, 2023, after parliamentary approval, the ECP was expected to disregard district boundaries to ensure that the variation among the population of an assembly’s constituencies does not ordinarily exceed 10pc.” according to the report.

The independent entity claimed the difference among constituency populations can be calculated and pointed out by comparing a constituency’s population with the average population per seat of an assembly or quota per seat.

It said the quota is calculated by dividing a province’s population, as determined by the last officially published census, by the number of seats of that province in the national or provincial assemblies, as provided in the Constitution.

It was pointed out the quota for each National Assembly (NA) constituency for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was calculated at 907,913, 787,954 for the Islamabad Capital Territory, 905,595 for Punjab, 913,052 for Sindh and 930,900 for Balochistan. Similarly, the Provincial Assembly (PA) seat quota for KP was established at 355,270, 429,929 for Punjab, 428,432 for Sindh and 292,047 for Balochistan. It says, “An analysis of the preliminary report of delimitation 2023 and draft lists of constituencies reflects that the parliamentary emphasis on minimising the population variation was not extensively used to ensure the equality of votes in constituencies of an assembly.

The FAFEN argued that the Election Act change was only used in delimiting 11 NA constituencies, six in KP, three in Punjab and two in Sindh and one Punjab Assembly constituency.

“As a result, the number of constituencies with more than 10pc variation in population went up from 170 — 82 NA and 88 PAs in 2022 delimitation to 180 — 83 NA and 97 PAs — in the 2023 draft lists of constituencies,” according to the FAFEN. “This means that more than one-fifth of the total constituencies demarcated do not comply with Section 20(3) of the Elections Act, 2017. The proposed NA constituencies with more than 10pc population variation included 35 constituencies in Punjab, 22 in Sindh, 21 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and five in Balochistan.

“Similarly, the PA constituencies included 30 in KP, 26 in Punjab, 25 in Balochistan, and 16 in Sindh,” FAFEN said. It explained that the issue of inequality among constituency populations continued because the ECL did not update the Election Rules to reflect Section 20(3) of the Elections Act.

It revealed about preliminary list that the largest NA constituency, NA-39 Bannu, has a population of 1,357,890, nearly three times bigger than the smallest constituency, NA-1 Chitral Uppercum- Chitral Lower, with a population of 515,935. It said the largest proposed NA constituency in Punjab is NA-49 Attock-I with a population of 1,126,142, against the smallest NA-61 Jhelum-II having a population of 690,683. It said Sindh’s NA-209 Sanghar-I is proposed to have a population of 1,172,516, while NA-221 Tando Muhammad Khan is carved out with a population of 726,119. It said Balochistan’s NA-255 Sohbatpur-cum- Jaffarabad-cum-Usta Muhammad-cum- Nasirabad has a population of 1,124,567 in contrast to NA-261 Quetta-I’s population of 799,886. For the provincial assemblies, KP’s largest constituency PK- 93 Hangu (528,902) hosts almost three times the population of the smallest, PK-1 Upper Chitral (195,528); the largest PA constituency in Sindh, PS-75 Thatta- I, has a population of 556,767, while PS-79 Jamshoro-II is the smallest with a population of 354,505; Punjab’s largest PA constituency, PP-177 Kasur-III, has a population of 510,875, while the smallest PP-84 Khushab-IV has a population of 359,367 and Balochistan’s PB-51 Chaman with a population of 466,218 is the largest constituency, two and a half times bigger than the smallest constituency, PB- 23 Awaran, with a population of 178,958. “Such inequalities in the constituencies’ population may potentially result in a greater number of representations by voters,” FAFEN cautioned. It urged the ECP to enhance the voter-friendliness of the process of filing representations on the draft constituencies and consider allowing their submission at its district, regional, and provincial offices. “Currently, every voter seeking to file a representation on delimitation has to travel to Islamabad for its submission and subsequently for hearings at the ECP Secretariat, which bears additional costs and efforts,” according to the FAFEN report.

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