ISLAMABAD: Although three districts should see the number of their National Assembly seats rise, it is unlikely that the fresh delimitation exercise would make any significant changes to the number of National Assembly seats in most districts throughout the country, a thorough examination of the official results of the first-ever digital census reveals.
Since it was not possible to amend articles 51 and 106 of the Constitution to allocate more seats in the national and provincial legislatures, the yet-to-begin delimitation exercise is expected to be confined to intra-provincial changes, according to those privy to developments.
Under clause 7 (2) of the election rules, the Election Commission of Pakistan is to determine and notify the share of districts, by dividing their total population with the quota per seat of the National Assembly. A fraction of more than 0.5 is to be counted as one seat and a fraction of less than 0.5 is to be ignored, under the ECP’s formula.
A careful calculation shows that no district will lose its share of National Assembly seats, which means that even if some districts should see a rise in the number of their NA seats, they may not get one in the upcoming delimitation exercise. Instead, the per seat quota of population per constituency is set to be higher than earlier delimitations.
Karachi, Kasur and Gujranwala are due to get an additional seat each, but this may not be possible
The per seat quota for Punjab, with a total population of 127.68 million and 141 National Assembly seats, comes to 905,595.
Sindh, with a total population of 55.69m and 61 seats in the NA, has a per seat quota of 913,051.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has a population of 40.85m and 45 NA seats, and will now have a per seat quota of 907,913.
With a population of 14.89m and 16 NA seats, the per seat quota for Balochistan is 930,900, while that of Islamabad with 2.36m people and three allocated seats comes to 787,954.
Under the standard formula, two districts in Punjab and one in Sindh deserve an additional seat, but are unlikely to get it, as no district is losing its share.
Gujranwala, with a population of 5.95 million, currently has six NA seats. Under the new formula, its share comes to 6.58, which would otherwise translate into a seventh seat for the district.
Similarly, Kasur currently has four NA. But its population of 4.08 million takes its share to 4.51, which makes it eligible to get another seat.
In Sindh, Karachi’s district South currently has two NA seats. But with a population of 2.32 million its share comes to 2.55, which technically qualifies it for a third seat.
However, experts point out that thanks to a recent amendment in the Elections Act, under which it is no longer necessary for planners to strictly adhere to district boundaries, the ECP could have some room to maneuver.
This can be done by giving districts, which are entitled to an additional fractional share, another seat by joining some of its territory with an adjacent district.
Mansehra district, for example, which had a share of 1.5 in 2018, received a second seat with the addition of the 0.5 share of Tor Ghar, which was clubbed with it. Now, the population of the district has reached 1.79 million and the share comes to 1.98 – putting it in a position to independently qualify for both seats.
However, observers fear that Gerrymandering constituencies in this way – even if done in the light of the legal cover provided by the amendment to the Elections Act – might make the delimitation exercise controversial.
For delimitation of constituencies in accordance with the quota, ECP is supposed to constitute, a delimitation committee – for each province and Islamabad – consisting of no less than three ECP officers. They will be responsible for preparing draft proposals for delimitation of constituencies of the national and provincial assembly of the respective province.
Published in Dawn, August 11th, 2023