ISLAMABAD: A huge mismatch in the otherwise increased and decreased share of districts across the country, under the recently notified results of the first-ever digital census, is set to make the upcoming exercise to re-draw boundaries for provincial assemblies’ elections a complex one.

A thorough analysis of population figures shows that unlike for National Assembly seats, fresh delimitation for the provincial assembly seats can affect dozens of districts.

Since a constitutional amendment to increase the total number of seats in the provincial assemblies is not possible in the absence of a National Assembly, the ECP would have to accommodate each district’s share — whether increased or reduced — within the current strength of each assembly. This means that seats can only be added to one district if another area loses its share, and vice versa.

A recent amendment in the law that allows the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to carve out constituencies by combining parts of two adjacent districts could potentially make the exercise trickier.

Observers fear that if used widely, the impact of boundaries redrawn under this provision could make this one of the most controversial delimitation exercises ever conducted.

When contacted, a senior ECP official admitted as much, but insisted that if used appropriately, the new provision could help form uniform constituencies with little or negligible variance.

For provincial assembly constituencies, the per seat quota for Punjab, with a total population of 127.68 million and 297 PA seats, comes to 429,929.

In line with the practice for NA seats, ECP determines and notifies the share of each district by by dividing their total population with the quota per seat of the relevant provincial 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.

Punjab

In Punjab, two districts have an increased share, while four districts are set to lose one seat each.

Rajanpur, with a population of 2.38m and a share of 5.53, qualifies for another seat, taking its total from five to six constituencies.

Bhakkar’s seats are also to increase from four to five with a share of 4.55, if the round-off rule is applied. The population of the district is 1.95m.

However, Rawalpindi, Multan, Sialkot and Lodhran are the four districts where share has gone down by one seat each.

Rawalpindi had 15 provincial assembly seats and with the population of 6.11m and share of 14.23, which qualifies it for only 14 seats.

Multan, with a population of 5.36m, has a share of 13.47, which could bring the number of its seats to 13, if one of its constituencies is not joined with an adjacent district.

Likewise, Sialkot’s share is also set to reduce from 11 to 10 seats with a population of 4.49m and a share of 10.46.

Lodhran, with a population of 1.92m and share of 4.49 could see its provincial assembly seats reduced to four from five.

Sindh

Sindh, with a total population of 55.69m and 130 seats in the provincial legislature, has a per seat quota of 428,431.

Three districts – all in Karachi – qualify for an additional seat each, but only two districts are losing their share.

While the share of Karachi’s Central and East districts have risen, district Malir also deserves to get an additional seat, with its population of 2.40m and a share of 5.61.

On the flip side, Sanghar and Khairpur districts seem set to lose one seat, dropping from six PA seats to five, and from seven PA seats to six, respectively.

With a population of 2.30m, Sanghar’s share is 5.38, while Khairpur has a population of 2.59m and a share of 6.06.

KP and Balochistan

KP province has a population of 40.85m and 99 PA seats, and will now have a per seat quota of 412,687.

Here, over a dozen districts — including the provincial capital — have a reduced share this time, with none qualifying for an enhanced share. The mismatch is there in Balochistan as well.

In KP, Peshawar appears to be losing two seats, bringing the number from 14 to 12.

The other districts that seem due to lose a seat – according to calculations – include Bannu (4 to 3), D I Khan (5 to 4), Batagram (2 to 1), Mansehra (5 to 4), Hangu (2 to 1), Kohat (4 to 3), Buner (3 to 2), Lower Dir (5 to 4), Mardan (8 to 7), Charsadda (5 to 4), Mohmand (2 to 1) and Nowshera (6 to 4). Upper Dir, currently having one seat, now has a reduced share of 0.47.

However, no district has an increased share and thus no major changes are imminent, unless a decision to carve out constituencies going beyond the district limits is taken.

In Balochistan, with a population of 14.89m and 51 provincial assembly seats, the per seat quota is now 292,047.

Here, it is the Panjgur and Kachhi districts that qualify for one additional seat each, taking their total to two. Barkhan, Musakhel, Ziarat and Sherani districts, which previously had a 0.5 share, now qualify for their own provincial assembly seats.

Meanwhile, Zhob’s share has dropped from 1.5 to 1.0.

Published in Dawn, August 15th, 2023

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