ISLAMABAD: The Elec­tion Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Monday announ­ced the delimitation schedule for the National Assem­bly and provincial assemblies for the next general elections.

As a first step, the boundaries of administrative units across the country have been frozen and the delimitation committees for all the provinces and the federal capital will be formed by April 16.

The schedule came days after the ECP had expressed inability to conduct general elections before October, citing legal hitches including absence of delimitation, an essential prerequisite for polls, inviting scathing criticism from the then ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf.

Training will be provided to the delimitation committees between April 20 and 24. Chief secretaries and provincial election commissioners will provide required maps and documents for demarcation, including description of districts, tehsils etc, by April 26. Preliminary delimitations will be published on May 28. People will then present their objections and recommendations to the ECP on the initial delimitation from May 29 to June 28. The ECP will hear and decide all objections from July 1 to July 30 and the final list of constituencies will be published on August 3.

Section 17(2) of the Elections Act reads, “The commission shall delimit constituencies after every census is officially published.”

However, after an inordinate delay of three years, official results of the census carried out before the 2018 general elections were notified on May 7, 2021.

The delimitation process had finally started after the notification though it was stopped after the PTI government announced it would go for a fresh digital census.

While explaining legal provisions dealing with delimitation, an ECP official said under Section 19(1) of the Elections Act, the Commission would divide each province and federal capital territory into as many separate territorial constituencies as the number of general seats allocated to them under Article 51 of the Constitution.

He said under Section 20(1) of the Act, all constituencies for general seats, as far as practicable, were to be delimited having regard to the distribution of population in geographically compact areas, physical features, existing boundaries of administrative units, facilities of communication and public convenience and other cognate factors to ensure homogeneity in the creation of constituencies.

Also, according to Section 20(3) of the Act, as far as possible, variation in population of constituencies of an Assembly should not ordinarily exceed 10 per cent, he said.

Under Section 21(1) of the Act for the purpose of delimiting constituencies, the Commission may receive and consider representations, hold inquiries, summon witnesses and record evidence, and prepare and publish in the official Gazette a preliminary report and list of constituencies specifying the areas proposed to be included in each constituency.

ECP not getting funds

The ECP has been facing serious issues in fulfilling its important constitutional duties due to problems in provision of required funds from the federal and provincial governments for the next general elections and local government polls in Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan, a meeting of the commission chaired by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja was informed.

The meeting noted that since not only the constitutional and legal responsibilities of the ECP were being compromised but also the SC orders dated March 15, 2021 and March 25, 2021 regarding the holding of local government elections in the country as per constitutional obligation were being flouted, the ECP would apprise the SC registrar of the situation.

It was observed that the overdue local government elections could face further delay because of the non-provision of funds.

In addition, the ECP secretary would take up the issue with the federal finance secretary and chief secretaries of the three provinces so that the issue could be resolved at the earliest leading to smooth conduct of the local government elections in Islamabad and the three provinces.

Published in Dawn, April 12th, 2022

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