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ISLAMABAD: Another meeting of parliamentary leaders to discuss the issue of the delimitation of constituencies ended on Wednesday without success as the main opposition party — the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) — refused to budge from its stance, insisting that the Council of Common Interests (CII) must be approached for approval before the re-allocation of seats of legislatures on the basis of the provisional results of the census.

Following the meeting, Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said the meeting had “failed”. National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq, too, admitted: “Today we have not arrived at a consensus.”

The speaker elaborated on the deadlock, saying that the PPP was insisting that the matter be referred to the CCI first, whereas their side believed that the issue could be decided by parliament whose status was not lower than the CCI’s. He said they had now requested the federal government to decide whether or not to convene a meeting of the CCI. He said the parliamentary leaders would meet again only after getting a response from the government. “We requested the federal ministers present in the meeting to apprise us about the government’s viewpoint. If a decision is taken in the CCI meeting, it will be all right. Otherwise, we will meet again to discuss a future plan,” he declared.

There was, however, the consensus among all parties that the upcoming general elections should not be delayed.

The speaker said that parliamentary leaders had discussed the possibility of holding elections on the basis of the 1998 census and had arrived at the conclusion that it would not be possible due to legal complications. The proposal to hold the elections on the basis of the 1998 census had been floated by Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah and was also supported by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).

The suggestion that the matter be brought before parliament for vote was also discussed, said Mr Sadiq, adding that in that case, they might not be able to make any decision with consensus. Moreover, he said, no constitutional amendment could be passed from the Senate without the support of the PPP.

“The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has made it clear that it will go to the Supreme Court for directions (if the parliament fails to decide on something), but we hope that since the matter is in parliament’s domain, it should be the one to do it,” Mr Sadiq said.

Separately talking to reporters, the AML chief claimed that the government did not have the numbers to pass a constitutional amendment. He disclosed that he had had a verbal brawl with Pakhtunkhwa Mili Awami Party chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai during Wednesday’s meeting but did not elaborate on the disagreement.

Published in Dawn, November 9th, 2017