KARACHI: Chief Election Commissioner Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim categorically stated on Tuesday that delimitation of constituencies in Karachi before general elections was not possible and pointed out that the absence of fresh census might make it impossible to implement the Supreme Court order in this regard.
But, he was confident that the issue would not lead to a delay in elections which, he said, would be the ‘most crucial polls in Pakistan’s history and would set the future course of democracy’. He reiterated that the elections would be fair, free and transparent
He did not appear worried when asked whether the ECP’s failure to delimit the constituencies could earn the apex court’s ire. “We would seek court advice and guidance over how to do that,” he told Dawn after spending a busy day during which he visited different areas in the city to review the process of voters’ verification.
“If I cut a square into four without knowing how many people or voters are in one of the four parts, it will definitely affect the other three. So it is not possible to delimit any constituency without a fresh census,” he said
He also talked about the result of his recent consultations with political parties which supported the delimitation but did not come up with specific proposals. The proposals made by one party were unworkable, Justice Ebrahim said. “First there is no census and second the parties which support delimitation don’t have any idea how to do that. It’s not possible.”
When reporters drew his attention to a demand for his resignation made by some politicians, he bluntly said: “I am not going anywhere. I accepted this office as a challenge and am confident about organising free and fair elections on time. The elections are the most vital for Pakistan’s history and I am not giving up at this critical time.”
He shared details of his talks with the Corps Commander of Karachi about troops’ deployment during verification of electoral rolls in the city.
“I told the Corps Commander that I needed 17,000 troops across Karachi and he said that was not possible. But he offered us enough personnel, which have met our requirement. Everyone can witness that the verification process is going on smoothly and transparently with no issue of security in any part of the city,” he said.
But Justice Ebrahim’s resolve and findings have failed to convince some political parties -- mainly in the opposition or those having no representation in parliament. Later in the day a few of the parties announced a plan of protest against ‘non-implementation of the court orders about army’s presence during the verification process’.
“The SC verdict is not being implemented in its true spirit because Army and Frontier Constabulary personnel are not taking part in the process of verification,” said a statement issued by Jamaat-i-Islami’s Karachi chapter.
“Leaders of the JI, PML-N, Tehrik-i-Insaaf, Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan, JUI-S, Awami Tehrik, Sunni Tehrik, Pakistan Democratic Party and PML-SB will set up a protest camp outside the office of the provincial Election Commission,” it said.
The CEC’s remarks about delimitation also attracted criticism from Sindhi nationalists, who have been campaigning for it.
“Justice Ebrahim has made himself controversial by ruling out delimitation in Karachi,” said AT chief Ayaz Latif Palijo at a meeting of his party’s executive committee in Hyderabad hours after the CEC’s remarks.
“The Supreme Court had issued clear directives about delimitation but the PPP government and the Election Commission of Pakistan are not ready to comply with the directives. The CEC must disclose under what pressure he is issuing such statements,” he said.