ISLAMABAD: In what is set to trigger a controversy, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has announced the schedule for delimitation of constituencies for holding local government (LG) elections in Sindh.
Under the schedule issued a day after expiry of local governments’ term in the province, the delimitation committees will prepare preliminary lists from Sept 9 to Sept 22 and the entire process will be completed with the publication of final lists on Oct 30.
In-charge of the Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) election cell and former senator Taj Haider, while talking to Dawn, said his party had sent two communications to the ECP, urging it to ask the government to implement the agreement that had paved the way for the passage of 24th Amendment to the Constitution. He regretted that the ECP never responded to the letters.
“Delimitation of constituencies could not be carried out on the basis of the provisional figures of population obtained in Census 2017,” he asserted.
PPP wants agreement that paved way for passage of 24th Amendment implemented first
He said the 24th Amendment had limited the use of provisional figures obtained in Census 2017 as under:
“Provided that for purposes of the next general elections to be held in 2018 and by-elections related thereto, the allocations shall be made on the basis provisional results of the 2017 Census which shall be published by the Federal Government.”
He pointed out that the figures obtained in the Census 2017 were highly controversial since the Statistic Division had conducted the census on a de jure basis which had excluded migrants from other provinces from the population of the province of their present residence. This method had substantially reduced the population of Sindh.
Mr Haider recalled that at the time of the passing of the 24th Amendment, he was PPP parliamentary leader in the Senate. Many rounds of negotiations were held on the issue and the amendment could only be passed when an agreement was reached at a meeting of the parliamentary leaders of all political parties in the Senate, presided over by then prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.
He said correction of the provisional figures of Census 2017 on the lines given in the agreement was a pre-condition for any delimitation of constituencies other than those of by-election of the 2018 general elections.
“Unless the faulty figures of Census 2017 were corrected on the lines of this agreement, it would not be constitutionally possible to carry out delimitations for any future elections,” he remarked.
The term of local governments in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had expired on Jan 27, 2019 and Aug 28, 2019, respectively, and the local governments in Punjab were dissolved on May 4, 2019.
Section 219 of the Elections Act 2017 says the ECP “shall conduct elections to the local governments under the applicable local government law, and the Rules framed thereunder, as may be applicable to a Province, cantonments, Islamabad Capital Territory or Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
“The Commission shall hold elections to the local governments within one hundred and twenty days of the expiry of the term of the local governments of a Province, cantonment, Islamabad Capital Territory or Federally Administered Tribal Areas.”
But the Sindh Local Government Act (SLGA) 2013, which was passed by the Sindh Assembly with a majority vote, is silent about the date of election following completion of the LG tenure.
Chapter V of the SLGA pertains to LG elections. While Section 34 (1) of the Act says the ECP shall conduct elections, sub-section 2 of the same section gives the provincial government authority to announce the date of elections in the province.
It reads: “Government shall, in consultation with the Election Commission, make an announcement of the date or dates on which the election for the Councils shall be conducted in the Province or part thereof.
“Provided that the date or dates of such election shall not be less than sixty days and not more than hundred and twenty days from the date of such announcements.”
Under Section 17 (1) of the Elections Act 2017, the ECP is responsible for delimitation of territorial constituencies for elections to the National Assembly, each provincial assembly and to the local governments in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, the Act, the Rules and the applicable LG law.
Section 17 (2) of the Act reads: “The Commission shall delimit constituencies after every census officially published.”
Published in Dawn, September 1st, 2020