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ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) plan for delimitation of national and provincial assembly constituencies appears to be in shambles, as the chief statistician told the ECP that it would not be possible to share final census data with the commission before April 2018.

A meeting on census-related matters held at the ECP on Wednes­day, chaired by Chief Election Commissioner retired Justice Sardar Mohammad Raza Khan, was informed by Chief Statistician Asif Bajwa that the head and house-count exercise was over and work on data entry of information from the districts was going on.

He said the final census report on the national, provincial and district level would be finalised in April 2018, which would be handed over to the ECP. He ruled out the provision of data before that, but said that provisional data could be shared by the end of July.

CEC says constituencies can’t be redrawn if census data not shared in advance

The chief election commissioner observed that the ECP would not be in a position to start work on fresh delimitations before obtaining final census data. He said the law did not recognise provisional data and, in such a case, the 2018 general elections would have to be conducted in accordance with existing delimitations.

He said that under the law, the process of fresh delimitation could not be initiated unless the final census report was officially published. “This is a legal requirement that cannot be altered,” he remarked.

The CEC said a number of problems had been created for the ECP in connection with the 2018 general elections. He said that on one hand, the new election act 2017 had not been finalised, while on the other hand, new issues had cropped up that would affect the ECP’s plan to carry out fresh delimitations in the light of the census data.

He said the government appeared to be non-serious about finalising a new electoral law, which could give the ECP proper time and opportunity to make foolproof arrangements for the 2018 general elections. He said that now, the statistics division had also put the brakes on delimitation work by announcing that the final report of census would be published in April 2018.

The CEC said it had now become impossible for the ECP to conduct elections on fresh delimitations, adding that the commission needed around seven months to carry out the process.

He said that if the Statistics Division provided its report in April, it would not be possible to conduct the elections in July-August 2018 on the basis of fresh delimitation. “We will be under compulsion to hold 2018 general elections on the basis of existing boundaries,” he remarked.

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2017