ISLAMABAD, Jan 16: The federal government, which is set to unveil the election schedule in July, announced here on Wednesday the first part of the constitutional package by declaring that elections would be held on joint electorate basis.

It was also announced that existing seats of the National Assembly had been increased from 237 to 350, including 60 seats for the women.

Reserved seats for the minorities have been abolished and 25 new seats created for the technocrats.

National Reconstruction Bureau (NRB) Chairman Lt-Gen Tanvir Hussain Naqvi (retired) said at a press conference that only educated persons, with the minimum qualification of graduation, would be able to contest the polls. Polling method for the general seats would remain same but for the election of women, proportional representation system was being introduced.

The system of separate electorate was introduced by the late Gen Zia and it was included in the Constitution through the controversial 8th Amendment. Last elections on joint electorate basis were held in 1977.

In a related development, Chief Election Commissioner Justice Irshad Hasan Khan (retired) took oath on Wednesday.

The president also issued an order under which the Election Commission will be reconstituted, having a member from each province. Earlier, the EC consisted of two members and a chairman. Now it will have four members and a chairman.

The retired general said special seats for women, which ceased to exist in 1993, had not only been revived but also increased to 60.

Ten special seats for the minorities had been abolished, and now they would be eligible to contest against any general seat from any constituency and cast their votes in their respective constituencies, he pointed out.

However, no programme for delimitation of the constituencies, which was due after the census in 1997, has yet been announced.

The NRB chief said legal cover for holding delimitation and preparation of electoral lists would be given in the next few days.

Twenty-five new seats had also been created for technocrats in the lower house of the parliament, he further said, adding that these would be held under proportional representation.

Before elections, all parties would have to announce names of their candidates against women and technocrat seats which would be duly published.

Allocation of the seats would be determined on the basis of votes polled by each party.

BREAKUP: Giving the breakup of the National Assembly’s proposed composition, the retired general said there would be an increase of 58 in general seats from the current 207 to 265, adds APP.

Seats for women had been increased from 20 to 60, and 25 new seats had been created for technocrats.

This raises the total strength of the house to 350, with an increase of 113 seats.

He said composition of the provincial assemblies would be announced in a couple of days.

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