Delay in general elections certain as ECP announces fresh delimitations

Election body says delimitations process will take about four months to complete

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.