ISLAMABAD: Warning that time is running out for delimitation, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) urged the government on Thursday to speed up the process aimed at amending the law allowing demarcation of constituencies on the basis of provisional census results.

Talking to Dawn, ECP Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Mohammad said the commission had already started the groundwork and was ready to notify formation of delimitation committees within days after the law was amended. He said it was a lengthy exercise that would consume about six months.

He referred to Section 14 of the Elections Act, 2017, which reads: “The Commission shall, at least four months before the general election is due to be held on expiry of the term of an Assembly, prepare a comprehensive Action Plan specifying all legal and administrative measures that have been taken or required to be taken in respect of the election, including delimitation of constituencies; revision of electoral rolls; enlistment of political parties, allocation of symbols...”.

He said the ECP had been issuing timely warnings to this effect and agreed that the amendment could have been passed when the Election Bill, 2017, was approved by parliament. He noted that if the delimitation exercise was not carried out in accordance with the fresh census, questions would be raised about constitutionality of the elections. He strongly opposed a proposal floated during a meeting of a parliamentary committee on inter-provincial coordination to conduct elections without fresh delimitation.

ECP secretary says if delimitation is not carried out in accordance with census, constitutionality of polls will be questioned

The ECP secretary, while explaining the procedure for delimitation, said that under the draft election rules, the commission would constitute, for each province, a delimitation committee consisting of not less than three officers of the commission, one of whom shall be designated as the convener, which shall be responsible for preparing draft proposals for delimitation of constituencies of national and provincial assemblies.

A delimitation committee shall be constituted separately for the federal capital and tribal areas which shall be responsible for preparing the draft proposals for delimitation of constituencies of the National Assembly from the tribal areas and the federal capital.

The commission shall convey the share of seats for each district or districts or agency or agencies in the National Assembly or, as the case may be, the provincial assembly, to the delimitation committees concerned and shall also provide guidelines and timeframe for functioning of the committee. Each delimitation committee immediately after its constitution will proceed to obtain population data of last census officially published along with relevant maps showing therein census charges, census circles and census blocks along with description, relating to a province, a district, an agency, or any other administrative or revenue unit as it may require, from the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics.

After the draft proposals for delimitation of constituencies are finalised on Form-5, the delimitation committee shall send the same to the commission, within the time specified and in the manner as may be determined by the commission.

The commission may, on receipt of Form-5 containing draft proposals of delimitation of constituencies of an assembly, examine such proposals with reference to the principles of delimitation as laid down in section 20, the provisions of this chapter and its guidelines and may make such alterations or modifications therein as it may deem necessary or may refer such proposals back to the delimitation committee concerned for reconsideration in the light of observations of the commission and such delimitation committee after making modifications in the proposals as may be necessary shall resubmit the same to the commission within 15 days of its receipt.

The commission, after it is satisfied that draft proposals for delimitation conform to the provisions of the act and the rules, shall publish them as preliminary proposals for delimitation along with its report in the official gazette and cause to give wide publicity to the same as it may deem fit.

Published in Dawn, October 20th, 2017

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