ISLAMABAD: Expressing displeasure over the delay in amendment to the law which will pave the way for delimitation of electoral constituencies on the basis of provisional census results for the coming general elections, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has given a seven-day deadline to the government to complete the task.

At a meeting presided over by Chief Election Commissioner retired Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza on Friday, it was pointed out that under the existing law the commission could start the delimitation process after a final notification of the census results, which according to the Statistics Division, would be done in April next year.

Briefing reporters after the meeting, ECP Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Muhammad said that the commission had expressed concern over non-provision of necessary maps and data to them by the Statistics Division.

Setting a deadline of seven days for the law ministry and the Statistics Division to complete their respective jobs, the ECP made it clear that it would not be responsible for any uncalled-for delay.

Commission can start delimitation process only after final notification of census results

Besides others, the meeting was attended by the law and Statistics Division secretaries.

It was explained that even if the delimitation process was started on Nov 1, it would be completed by April 30 with difficulty.

The ECP secretary said the commission on its part was ready and had already completed training of its officers for carrying out delimitation. He said an amount of Rs4 billion would be spent on delimitation and revision of electoral rolls.

An ECP official told Dawn that under Section 12 (d) of the recently passed Elections Act, it was mandate of the commission to examine law, rules and regulations in force which were relevant to the conduct of elections and recommend to the federal government amendments in such laws, rules or regulations, as the case might be, in order to increase transparency and fairness and eliminate corrupt practices. He said Article 218 of the Constitution also gave the ECP powers to take all steps to ensure conduct of free and fair polls.

He said the ECP had been issuing timely warnings to the government to address the lacunae in the law hindering commencement of delimitation process. He regretted that the opportunity to address it had been missed out when the election act was passed.

About the principles of delimitation defined in the law, he said all constituencies for general seats, as far as practicable, are to be delimited having regard to the distribution of population in geographically compact areas, physical features, existing boundaries of administrative units, facilities of communication and public convenience and other cognate factors to ensure homogeneity in the creation of constituencies.

Published in Dawn, October 28th, 2017