Elections to be held in Oct 2023 on basis of digital census: minister

Published December 21, 2022
NIMA Board of Advisers President retired Admiral Asif Sandila presents a souvenir to Minister for Planning and Special Initiative Ahsan Iqbal during a symposium at Bahria University in Islamabad on Tuesday. — APP
NIMA Board of Advisers President retired Admiral Asif Sandila presents a souvenir to Minister for Planning and Special Initiative Ahsan Iqbal during a symposium at Bahria University in Islamabad on Tuesday. — APP

ISLAMABAD: Minister for Planning Development and Special Initiatives Ahsan Iqbal on Tuesday reiterated that the next general elections would be held in Oct 2023 based on the 7th digital population and housing census 2022.

Addressing digital media influencers, the minister said the last general elections were held on the basis of an old census and the province of Sindh had conditionally agreed to hold the elections in 2023 based on fresh digital census.

“Therefore, the government will not take any step which makes the whole election process controversial,” Mr Iqbal said, adding that in April 2023, the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) would formally hand over the digital census results to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and subsequently the commission would take four months for delimitation.

The minister recalled that former prime minister Imran Khan had endorsed the Council of Common Interest’s (CII) decision to hold the next elections based on fresh digital census.

He also added that due to recent floods, which had badly affected two provinces, the elections were not possible before Oct 2023.

“What message will go to the flood-affected people if elections are announced before the completion of the incumbent government’s term,” said the minister while referring to Imran Khan’s demand to hold early polls.

“He has been demanding immediate elections ever since his government was removed through a vote of no-confidence in March this year, but this is an unfair demand,” he said.

Referring to a fabricated story published in Daily Mail against Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, the minister said the premier immediately took action against the newspaper as a result they tendered an apology.

He said since the government came into power, several projects had been started which were stopped by the previous government as during the last four years no progress was made on CPEC projects.

“The incumbent government has restarted work on Gwadar International Airport, which was stopped by the previous government. Similarly, two transmission lines for Gwadar have resumed and will be functional in Jan 2023,” he added.

Regarding Islamabad Metro Bus Project, the minister said the previous government had deliberately delayed the project though it was close to completion.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif soon after taking charge released the funds and as a result it was made functional and now accommodates millions of commuters in the twin cities, he added.

Blue economy

Federal Minister Ahsan Iqbal, while speaking at a maritime symposium, said there was a potential of over $100 billion in Pakistan’s blue economy.

“To tap the potential, the government is launching new projects for the development of coastal areas,” he said while speaking at the third international maritime symposium on ‘Geo-economic dimensions of Indian Ocean region - opportunities for the region and beyond’ organised by National Institute of Maritime Affairs (NIMA).

The minister said immense resources were available in the huge sea area at disposal and along the 1,000 kilometres Pakistani coast. However, he said political stability was mandatory for economic growth.

Speaking on the occasion, retired vice admiral Ahmed Saeed, the director general NIMA, highlighted the objectives and importance of the symposium.

The chief of naval staff’s message read to the audience underscored the importance of Indian Ocean region (IOR) that provided major connectivity routes for global trade and contained vast natural resources such as oil, gas, minerals and seafood.

Former chief of naval staff and and NIMA Board of Advisers President retired Admiral Asif Sandila said it was hub of major sea routes which connected oil rich Middle East with rest of the world through points like Strait of Hormuz, Babel Mandeb and Malacca straits.

“The smooth flow of trade is important not only for the IOR but also for global economy,” he said.

In the second session, the speakers deliberated on the geo-strategic environment of IOR, especially interest of major powers like the US, its allies and China.

Former naval chief retired Admiral Mohammad Zakaullah said China had gained extended economic reach in IOR. “USA, its allies and India are trying to contain China. How far they would be successful is yet to be seen,” he said.

Prof Dr Mehmet Seyfettin Erol, CEO of Ankara Centre for Crisis and Policy Studies, was of the opinion that regional connectivity facilitated trade, which was one of the major instruments for improvement of the economy.

Dr Petr Topychkanov, associate senior researcher from SIPRI, said technological development in maritime sectors demanded cooperation.

Dr Sameer Iqbal from Texas University dilated upon the importance of maritime-based renewable energy.

Retired Admiral Afzal Tahir, former CNS, said transit trade to China from Pakistani ports would not take off till China decided to develop their western province.

Published in Dawn, December 21st, 2022

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