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ISLAMABAD: As several mainstream political parties expressed their reservations over the delimitation of constituencies and revision of electoral rolls, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Monday informed their representatives that draft proposals for delimitation of constituencies would be put on display to invite objections from the constituents from March 6.

Chief Election Commissioner retired Justice Sardar Mohammad Raza informed a delegation comprising leaders of major political parties at a meeting that draft proposals had been received from all six delimitation committees across the country. The proposals were being examined by the commission, which was empowered to modify or alter them or refer them back to the delimitation committee concerned for reconsideration if it found any deviation from the principles of delimitation and its guidelines, he said.

The delegation, led by National Assembly Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi, was told that the delimitation exercise and revision of electoral rolls would be completed by the first week of May as part of the ECP’s efforts to ensure a free, fair and transparent general election.

The delegation included Daniyal Aziz, Zahid Hamid, Pervez Malik and Mohsin Shahnawaz Ranjha of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz; Dr Arif Alvi and Dr Fauzia of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf; Shazia Marri of the PPP; Iqbal S. Qadri and Sheikh Salahuddin of the Mutthida Qaumi Movement; Ghulam Ahmad Bilour of the Awami National Party; Aftab Ahmad Sherpao of Qaumi Watan Party; Akram Durrani of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazalur Rahman; Sahibzada Tariq Ullah and Ayesha Syed of the Jamaat-i-Islami, Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo of the National Party; Usman Kakar of Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party and Shaheryar Mehar of the PML-Functional.

ECP to put on display draft proposals on March 6 to seek objections

Talking to the media following the meeting, leaders of almost all the political parties said they had been told that the ECP had held consultations and had received around 300 suggestions concerning delimitation exercise, but wondered as to who had been consulted. They complained that the parties having representation in the parliament had been ignored during the consultative process.

Mr Abbasi said the initiative for a meeting of parliamentary parties’ representatives with the ECP had been taken by Speaker of the National Assembly Ayaz Sadiq because of the reservations that the parties had over the delimitation exercise.

“We have been assured that minor changes will be made in the areas where population has increased,” he said.

He said political opponents were running reports on the social media about delimitation of specific areas. “It would be alarming if the draft ECP proposals match with the reports running on social media,” he remarked.

Expressing similar reservations, Dr Alvi said the PTI had not been asked to give suggestions on the delimitation exercise and wondered where the 300 proposals had come from. He rejected the claim that 80 per cent door-to-door verification of voters had been completed. Even 10 per cent work had not been completed, he remarked.

The PTI leader said there was a huge gap in the number of voters between different constituencies. “Some constituencies have 925,000 voters and some as low as 600,000” in violation of relevant laws, he said.

He said he did not see free and fair delimitation taking place and will suggest his party to file a petition against delimitation in court.

According to former law minister Zahid Hamid, under the election rules of 2017 a voter who challenges delimitation in his constituency will be required to prepare a proposal for delimitation of the entire district. This whole exercise would not be possible for a common electorate to conduct, he said, suggesting that this rule be revisited.

He said the guidelines given by the ECP for delimitation should be placed on its official website. Besides, he referred to the huge gap of 12 million between male and female voters and called for a special campaign aimed at bridging the gap.

Mr Aziz told the media that the initial modus operandi of delimitation exercise had not been followed, while there was no mention of Rule 9 and 10 of the elections rules in the guidelines issued by the ECP.

He said the details of the meeting at the ECP would be presented before the Central Working Commit­tee of the PML-N that was going to meet on Tuesday. The party would be in a position to give a detailed point of view after the CWC meeting, he added.

Mr Kakar demanded that the number of national assembly seats from Balo­chistan be increased from 16 to 32. He said a large number of people from Federally Administered Tribal Agencies, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balo­chistan had no computerized national identity cards.

Published in Dawn, February 27th, 2018