ISLAMABAD: The number of cases in which the court has overturned the delimitation of constituencies rose to 10 after the Islamabad High Court set aside the delimitation of six districts on Wednesday, and will take up another 31 similar petitions on Thursday (today).
Commenting on fears that this could result in a possible delay of the elections scheduled for July 25, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) announced on Wednesday that it would adhere to the schedule it was expected to announce on June 1 and would hold the elections on time.
On Wednesday, Justice Aamer Farooq of the IHC declared that the delimitation of Kharan, Ghotki, Kasur, Sheikhupura, Bahawalpur and Haripur constituencies was void.
On Tuesday, the IHC had set aside the delimitation of constituencies in four districts — Jehlum, Jhang, Toba Tek Singh and Lower Dir. The court remanded the cases back to the ECP for rehearing.
The court upheld the ECP’s decision in certain cases and dismissed the petitions filed against the delimitation in Khanewal, Chiniot, Kurrum Agency, Rajanpur, Mansehra, Swabi, Jacobabad, Gujranwala, Umerkot, Rahim Yar Khan, Sialkot, Bannu and Chakwal.
The petitioners had pointed out that the delimitation in their constituencies was carried out on political grounds. The candidate’s objectives and stance were necessary for a constituency, they said.
The petitioners argued that the ECP had not followed standard procedures in the delimitation of constituencies.
According to the procedure, the ECP is supposed to follow a set formula for the number of seats of the provincial and national assemblies that a district is allotted.
According to the Delimitation of Constituencies Act, 1974, the constituencies for elections to the national and provincial assemblies have to be delimited after every census.
However, following the recent delimitations in light of the census held last year, as many as 108 petitions from various constituencies landed in the IHC. The petitioners mainly belong to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Pakistan Peoples Party, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and other political parties.
Justice Farooq held that rules for proportion of population that had been followed in the delimitation of other constituencies should be kept in view while delimiting constituencies of the districts in question.
The ECP, however, claimed that it had not yet received the IHC’s judgement, but it was committed to holding the polls on time. “We, on our part, are ready to hold the elections as per the plan,” said ECP spokesperson Altaf Ahmad Khan in a statement.
Ruling out the possibility of delay in polls, he said the schedule for the elections would be timely announced and the elections would also take place on time.
A senior official of the ECP, when contacted, said that as per his information, the court had asked the commission to hear the petitioners again. He said a corrigendum could be issued if need arose and the petitions could be disposed of in a few days. “It is not necessary to agree to the petitioner’s views,” he explained.
He said the delimitation had been carried out in accordance with the law and pointed out that the population was not the only criterion for defining the boundaries again. “The principles are to the effect that all constituencies shall, as far as practicable, be delimited having regard to the distribution of population in geographically compact area, existing boundaries of administrative units, facilities of communication and public convenience and other cognate factors to ensure homogeneity in the creation of the constituencies,” he said.
“As far as may be, the constituencies for elections to the same assembly within the district shall be equal amongst themselves in population,” he said, but pointed out that there was room for deviation where it was inevitable and the commission was required to record reasons for it.
Answering a question, he said the commission could consider approaching the Supreme Court if the decisions taken by high courts regarding the delimitations could impact the schedule for general elections. “We have to follow the book,” he remarked.
The official said that a date for the polls had been set by the president and the elections would be held on July 25, and the schedule for them would probably be announced on June 1.
Published in Dawn, May 31st, 2018