ISLAMABAD: Despite facing stumbling blocks previously, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) began on Monday the extensive exercise of redefining the boundaries of provincial and national assembly constituencies in light of the provisional results of the census held last year.
The commission has formed, for this purpose, six delimitation committees — one for each province, one for the federal capital and one for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. If all goes according to plan, the exercise will be completed by May 3.
On the side, the ECP has launched a door-to-door campaign to verify some 7.3 million CNIC holders who are yet to be registered as voters. The verification process is expected to be completed by the end of April.
A senior ECP official told Dawn that the per-seat quota of each district, determined on the basis of the provisional results of the population census, had been approved by the commission and was being conveyed to the delimitation committees.
He said the delimitation committees had undergone stringent training, and were a part of a geographical information system (GIS)-based mock delimitation exercise. “They have also been provided guidelines and a time frame in accordance with the law.” He said the delimitation committees were to prepare draft proposals within 45 days, following which voters of a constituency would have 30 days to file an objection with the ECP.
Process is expected to be completed by May 3
Explaining the principles of delimitation, the official said that under the Election Rules 2017, as far as possible, the delimitation of constituencies of an assembly would start from the northern end of the district, or, an agency, and would then proceed clock-wise in a zigzag manner, keeping in view that the population in the constituencies remained as close as was practicable according to the quota.
He said that variation in population between two or more constituencies should not ordinarily exceed 10pc. The delimitation committees will record reasons if, in exceptional circumstances, the variation exceeds the limit.
After draft proposals for delimitation of constituencies are finalised on Form-5, the delimitation committees will send them to the ECP which is expected to examine the proposals and make any alterations or modifications as it deems necessary. The ECP will then publish the preliminary proposals along with report in its official gazette.
A voter in any constituency may, within 30 days after the publication of preliminary proposals, make a representation to the commission in respect of delimitation of constituencies of the district or agency their vote is registered in. A representation could be in the form of a memorandum giving the grounds for such representation and details of how constituencies of an assembly in the district or agency may be delimited if the representation was accepted by the commission.
Referring to delays in the passage of the Elections Act, 2017, followed by a delay in notification of the provisional census results and provision of relevant data and maps by the provinces and the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, the official said that under the previous plan, the appointment of returning officers (ROs) and district returning officers (DROs) was to be made in the last week of March 2018, but this would not be possible now as they could only be appointed after the completion of delimitations (expected to be completed by May 3).
He said, according to the law, DROs and ROs were to be appointed two months prior to the announcement of the election schedule, but this provision would now be violated out of no fault of the ECP. He added that if all went well, the election schedule would be announced somewhere around May 29. He regretted that the ROs’ duties of preparing a polling scheme and training of polling agents, planned for April, would also be affected.
He, however, expressed satisfaction that things were back on track and the delimitation exercise had begun according to the amended plan.
Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2018
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