ISLAMABAD: The Elec­tion Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Friday ordered delimitation of National and provincial assembly constituencies on war-footing, without waiting for the digital census to commence.

The commission had earlier blamed the government for not cooperating and delaying the finalisation and publication of fresh digital census results, which subsequently led to a delay in delimitation.

The commission, which met here with Chief Elec­tion Commissioner Sikan­dar Sultan Raja presiding over, set a timeframe of four months for completion of the exercise on the basis of the 2017 census and population statistics. The meeting was attended by two ECP members besides senior officials, including the secretary and special secretary.

The meeting decided that the ECP would write to the provincial governments, seeking maps and relevant data immediately so the delimitation process could be completed on time. It also directed the secretary and special secretary to present to it a complete plan of action for the general elections on April 13.

The commission stressed it was fully committed to fulfilling its constitutional duty towards continuity of the democratic processes, fair play and rule of law.

The meeting was also apprised of the non-provision of funds by the Finance Division for conducting local government elections in Punjab for which the commission had written to the division.

Upon the Finance Division’s advice, the ECP had sent a summary for a supplementary grant to the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) for its approval, which the ECC further sent to the cabinet after approving. The Finance Division then communicated the cabinet’s approval for the required funds to the ECP through official correspondence.

When the ECP had recently asked the division to release the funds, it was told that it would require a No-Objection Certificate from the Punjab government. The commission took serious notice of the issue and maintained it was a financially and administratively independent body under the Constitution. The federal and all provincial governments were bound to provide administrative and financial support to it. But, for various reasons, hurdles were being created in the ECP’s process of fulfilling its constitutional responsibilities.

To ensure timely conduct of the local government elections in Punjab, the ECP decided to summon the federal finance secretary and Punjab chief secretary. It shall issue appropriate orders after hearing both the officials.

The meeting noted that any further delay in the overdue LG elections in Punjab would be a clear violation of the law and Constitution. It also decided to reschedule the by-elections in NA-33 Hangu to April 17, which were earlier scheduled for April10, but had to be put off following the dissolution of the National Assembly and pendency of the matter before the Supreme Court.

The seat had fallen vacant following the death of PTI lawmaker Khial Zaman Orakzai after battling cancer for several months.

The commission ordered the electoral rolls be updated and reviewed as early as possible.

Published in Dawn, April 9th, 2022

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