ISLAMABAD - The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday made it clear that the general elections in the country will not be possible in the stipulated limit of three months.
The top election body has reached a conclusion to conduct the fresh delimitation of the constituencies which is not possible within the stipulated timeframe of 90 days, as mentioned in the Constitution.
The article-224 of the Constitution binds the electoral body to conduct general elections within 90 days of the dissolution assemblies. The Section 17(2) of the Elections Act reads, “The Commission shall delimit constituencies after every census is officially published.”
A couple of weeks before, the Council of Common Interests (CCI) had approved the results of the 2023 digital census making it compulsory for the ECP to conduct fresh delimitation of constituencies.
According to the schedule, it would take the top election body to complete the process of delimitation of constituencies in around four months.
A statement issued by the ECP along with the schedule stated that since the official results of the seventh Population and Housing Digital Census 2023, has been published by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics on August 7, 2023, Article 51 of the Constitution, read along with section 17 of the Elections Act, 2017, the body was legally obligated to carry out fresh delimitation of Constituencies after the publication of official results of the census.
The ECP formally stated that it would be expedient to ensure that all those in the service of Pakistan shall assist Election Commission of Pakistan under Article 220 of the Constitution so that the elections are held as enshrined in Article 218 (3) of the Constitution. The ECP said delimitation of the constituencies will be held across the country from September 8 to October 7. It said the proposals regarding constituencies will be submitted from October 10 to November 8. The quota of constituencies of the national and provincial assemblies will be allocated from September 5 to September 7, the electoral body said.
According to the schedule, the preliminary constituency delimitation boundaries will be published by October 9, and the ECP will accept representations against them until November 11. These representations will be addressed and disposed of by December 8, 2023, whereas, the final delimitations will be published by December 14, 2023. As part of the schedule, the ECP exercised powers under Article 218(3) and Article 220 of the Constitution, read with section-4 of the Elections Act, 2017, it froze all revenue units.
“There shall be no change in the limits of the Revenue Units till the completion of the delimitation process,” read the schedule. Boundaries of administrative units across the country were also frozen. Provincial governments, including the Islamabad Capital Territory and Pakistan Bureau of Statistics were directed to ensure that the ECP is provided with all information and documents required by the commission in coordination with the provincial election commissioners, the notification of census charges, census circles and census blocks. The ECP sought hard and soft copies of maps concerning census charges, census circles and census blocks, along with descriptions.
The commission also sought the latest district maps in hard and soft form duly authenticated by the revenue authority according to the results of the population census in digital form or on tracing cloth/paper immediately. It is mentioned that natural physical features such as rivers, canals, mountains, hills, metal roads, railway lines and bridges shall also be clearly marked on the maps.
A couple of days ago, the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking its orders for the ECP to announce a date for polls to the national and provincial assemblies as per Article 224(2) of the Constitution. In its petition, the top lawyers’ body pleaded with the top court to suspend the August 5 decision of the CCI. Raising questions over the decision made in the August 5 meeting of the CCI and SCBA said that the interim chief ministers were not eligible to sit in the meeting. “The meeting of the Respondent No. 2 [CCI] took place on 05.08.2023, in the presence of the prime minister, the chief ministers of Sindh and Balochistan, the caretaker chief ministers of the Respondents No. 3 (Punjab) and 4 [KP] and other federal ministers,” read the petition.