ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly’s Special Committee on Delimitation of Constituencies discovered on Wednesday that it was a useless forum when the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) expressed its inability to follow its guidelines and said it would strictly follow the law.

Minister for State and Frontier Regions (Safron) Lt Gen (retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch said his constituency was spread over 65,000 square kilometres but after delimitation its area has been increased to 95,000 square kilometres.

“We are wasting our time by participating in the meeting of the special committee. I will not attend the meetings in future because the ECP has clearly said that instead of giving recommendations, we should file petitions with the commission. However I fear that the way the ECP has dealt with our recommendations given before delimitations, our petitions will also be dealt in a similar way,” Mr Baloch said during the first ever meeting of the special committee.

Earlier ECP Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Muhammad told the committee that the commission had to follow the law. He said the recommendations of the committee would be conveyed to the ECP but suggested that members file petitions over delimitations.

“You have made the law so the ECP will implement it in its letter and spirit... We are an independent body and we will follow the book,” Mr Babar said.

At the onset of the meeting, members elected Murtaza Javed Abbasi, deputy speaker of the National Assembly, as chairman of the committee and decided to finalise recommendations at the earliest.

During the meeting, the members criticised the ECP for anomalies in the delimitation exercise. The committee established a working group which will discuss the issue on day-to-day basis.

Mr Abbasi said there were many anomalies in terms of population and the way delimitation was carried out in different districts.

Daniyal Aziz of the PML-N said the parliament had authority and its recommendations should be considered.

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf MNA Arif Alvi said there were issues in as many as 90 per cent of the constituencies and general elections could be delayed while removing objections.

Siraj Muhammad Khan, a PTI dissident MNA, alleged that the area of the constituency of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister was the smallest as compared to other constituencies.

PPP MNA Nafisa Shah said that some areas of different constituencies had been placed in other constituencies due to which now candidates would have to travel for almost four hours to reach one area of these constituencies from another.

Iqbal Qadri of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan said some rural areas had been placed in urban areas and termed it unfair.

Mahmood Achakzai of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party alleged that the ECP had deliberately tried to provide benefit to some ‘ever green’ politicians.

Minister of Law Mehmood Bashir Virk claimed that his house had been excluded from his constituency and his vote had been transferred to another constituency and, as a result, he could not even file objection over it because only a voter of a constituency could file such an objection.

Qaumi Watan Party leader Aftab Ahmad Sherpao said it should be considered what would be the status of recommendations given by the parliamentarians as there was a possibility that after getting recommendations the ECP would suggest to the committee members to file appeals.

The chairman of the committee also raised the same question. The ECP secretary said parliamentarians or other persons who had objections over delimitation should lodge complaints with the commission.

Published in Dawn, March 15th, 2018