JHANG: Political leaders and candidates aspiring to contest the general election have expressed their reservations over the constitutional provision permitting the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to increase or decrease the number of constituencies through the process of delimitation.

They demand that the relevant section of the Constitution be repealed to put an end to this ‘undemocratic practice’ once and for all.

Agha Tariq Gilani, district president of the Pakistan Peoples Party (a former ticket holder for a National Assembly constituency comprising Jhang Municipal area and a few rural patwar circles), told Dawn that recent changes in the constituency had made it impossible for him to contest election. He said his previous constituency where he tirelessly worked and rendered services to the people in the last five years, had been changed beyond recognition.

Dr Abul Hassan, a PTI central leader who is an aspirant for the party ticket for the 2018 general election, also deplored delimitation. “Repeated changes in any constituency lend an element of uncertainty for the candidates and are usually done to benefit the ruling party candidates or those backed by the establishment,” he said.

He cited the example of some other countries having the parliamentary form of government. In India, he said, not a single constituency had been added since 1952. Delimitation of constituencies in India led to minor changes.

Asked about the need for such an exercise due to increase in population, he dispelled the impression that it had anything to do with the increase in the number of people. “A constituency is said to be a geographical entity and remains unaltered to keep the element of certainty intact for the intending candidates for any election,” he said.

He again cited the example of India, where the population of each constituency had swelled manifold since 1952.

Bahadar Khan Jhagar, a former district emir of the Jamaat-i- Islami and candidate for NA-115, corroborated the views expressed by two other politicians.

He raised another issue which, he said, had failed to evoke any reaction from the political circles of the district.

He said the number of seats during the last general election was four in Jhang but now one seat had been eliminated. “Many other districts which are smaller to Jhang have been allocated more seats which is an injustice,” he said.

Published in Dawn, May 14th, 2018