ISLAMABAD: With the results of the digital census yet to be formally notified, conducting the upcoming general polls on the basis of the latest delimitation is out of question, a senior official of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) said on Wednesday.
“The general elections 2023 for the national and provincial assemblies will be conducted as per the limits of the constituencies published by the Commission on August 5 last year,” he told Dawn.
The remarks come ahead of a post-enumeration survey scheduled to start on July 8, and plans to submit a report to the Council of Common Interests (CCI) by July 31, amidst claims by various federal ministers that the forthcoming polls will be preceded by a fresh delimitation exercise.
He said that under Article 51(5) of the Constitution and Section 17 (2) of the Elections Act, the final published data was required for the purpose of delimitation of constituencies, and the commission was bound to start the delimitation process once the census was officially published.
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Seats in the National Assembly are allocated to each province and federal territory based on the population according to the last preceding officially published census, under Article-51(3) of the Constitution.
Therefore, a constitutional amendment would be required following the official publication of census results, which was technically not possible after acceptance of resignations of the PTI lawmakers, he said.
The official told Dawn that a fresh delimitation exercise, which takes around four to six months, would make it impossible to conduct the general polls due before October 12 this year.
He said the belated exercise of fresh census with general elections just around the corner makes it practically impossible for the ECP to carry out fresh delimitation for the upcoming general elections.
“The ECP will have no other option but to hold upcoming general elections on the basis of the existing delimitation,” he said. He said the ECP had been asking the government to publish official results of the seventh population and housing census by December 31, 2022.
Once the census was published, the ECP would require more than four months to carry out a fresh delimitation exercise.
“Similarly, the revision of electoral rolls would also be required as a result of any increase or decrease in the number of census block codes and changes in the boundaries of blocks in different districts,” he said.
Another ECP official said the sixth national census was held in the country between March and May, 2017. Following the 24th Constitutional Amendment in Article 51 in Dec 2017, the delimitation of constituencies for the 2018 general elections was carried out on the basis of provisional results of the 2017 census as a one-time dispensation.
The final results of the population census were published in the official gazette by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics on May 6, 2021.
Under the Constitution, it is imperative for the commission to carry out fresh delimitation of all the constituencies of the national and provincial assemblies before the next general elections. Accordingly, provincial governments and Pakistan Bureau of Statistics were asked to supply requisite maps and data. The procured data and maps were scrutinised at ECP Secretariat.
He said the commission successfully completed the delimitation process after adopting all legal measures enshrined in the Elections Act and the Rules, 2017, and published final delimitation of constituencies on Aug 5, 2022.
Published in Dawn, June 29th, 2023