Election body wants notification of census results this month

Published February 12, 2021
Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja chaired a meeting on the conduct of local government elections in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.  — AFP/File
Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja chaired a meeting on the conduct of local government elections in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: With a view to removing a legal hitch in the holding of long-overdue local government elections in the provinces, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday called for official publication of the results of Census 2017 before March.

Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja chaired a meeting on the conduct of local government elections in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

A deputy attorney general who appeared before the commission said the federal government was working for the official publication of the census results. On this, the ECP said the sensitivity of the issue should be taken into consideration and the government should be requested to ensure that the official publication of the results was made before March 1, so that the commission could fulfill its constitutional and legal responsibilities with regard to the elections.

The secretary for local government was of the view that because the census results had not been officially published, carrying out delimitation work on the basis of provisional census data was against the law.

The secretary also stressed that the Balochistan government wanted to make some amendments to the Local Government Act. He said the proposed amendments would be presented for approval before the provincial cabinet in its next meeting.

The ECP gave 10 days to the Balochistan government to make the necessary amendments.

ECP summons Punjab’s chief secretary and local government secretary on 15th

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government was represented in the meeting by the provincial local government minister, chief secretary and advocate general of the province.

The advocate general took the position that it was not appropriate for the ECP to delimit constituencies under Section 17(2) of the Election Act before the official census data for 2017 was published.

Interestingly, the local government law of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has a provision for holding LG polls on the basis of provisional census results.

The ECP questioned the position of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Local Government Act, 2019 and contended that constituencies could be delimited on the basis of provisional census data or the official final data published.

It was noted that if there was a contradiction between the federal and provincial laws, the federal law should prevail. However, the chief secretary and local government minister took the stand that the ECP should consider the request of the provincial government.

The secretary for inter-provincial coordination (IPC) said that “we are trying to get the publication of the census results approved by the CCI (Council of Common Interests)”.

The ECP directed the deputy attorney general and IPC secretary to immediately take up the matter with the appropriate forum of the federal government and ensure that the census results were released before March 1.

It emphasised that official publication of the results should be ensured so that local body elections could be held by carrying out delimitation in accordance with the Constitution and the law. In this regard, the ECP will hold another hearing in the first week of March.

Meanwhile, the ECP has summoned chief secretary to the government of Punjab and secretary to the local government of the province on February 15 to discuss holding of LG polls in the provinces.

The commission noted that through issuance of an ordinance, the structure of the local body system in Punjab had been significantly changed, due to which the delimitation work and all arrangements made by the ECP so far had become redundant.

With all these issues in mind, the ECP had decided to hold a meeting on February 15.

Published in Dawn, February 12th, 20212

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