• PML-N urges completion of delimitation, voter lists before Dec 14
• CEC warns of action for code of conduct violations, says automated results system in the works

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has said it would carry out work on delimiting constituencies and updating the electoral rolls side by side to ensure the work is done in the minimum possible time, rekindling hope for polls in February next year.

The assurance was held out to a PML-N delegation, which had a consultative meeting with the ECP on the roadmap to polls on Friday.

Though it would still be a violation of the Constitution, which requires conduct of polls within 90 days after the dissolution of assemblies, it allays fears that the elections could be delayed for several months after completion of delimitation on the pretext of synchronisation of electoral rolls with new census blocks.

The decision, if implemented, would ensure that the electoral college is in place for the Senate before the expiry of the term of half of its members in March.

The ECP spokesman, in a statement on Friday, said the commission had begun the task of simultaneously conducting the delimitation and updating electoral rolls with the intention to complete both the processes concurrently.

He dismissed the speculations that ECP would commence the process to update electoral rolls only after the delimitation process concluded in December.

The PML-N urged the ECP to complete the process of delimitation and updating of electoral rolls before Dec 14.

Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja assured the PML-N team that the two tasks would simultaneously be completed and polls will be conducted as soon as possible.

Talking to reporters after the meeting, PML-N leaders Ahsan Iqbal, Azam Nazeer Tarar and Zahid Hamid indicated that general elections would be held in February.

They pointed out that different phases of elections under the poll schedule take 54 days from its issuance till the voting day. “Count 54 days after December 14 and you can guess the election date,” one PML-N leader pointed out.

The PML-N representatives told the ECP officials that the CCI had unanimously approved the census results and all political parties had agreed that the 2023 elections would be held on the basis of the new census. They noted that the ECP’s delimitation schedule was in accordance with the Constitution and law.

They suggested that the consultation process on the code of conduct should be revived, hate speeches strictly barred and only posters and stickers allowed to reduce the electoral expenses of candidates.

They also proposed that the media campaign should be carried out by the party, and candidates should not be allowed to run their media campaign.

The delegation was of the opinion that ECP officers should be appointed as district returning officers and returning officers as they can perform their duties impartially and in a better manner.

The CEC told them that the ECP will consult all political parties as per the law on the code of conduct before giving it a final shape.

The CEC also assured the PML-N members that elections would be transparent and fair and all parties would get equal opportunities. He said strict legal action would be ensured for violation of the code of conduct.

PML-N Secretary General Ahsan Iqbal told reporters that suggestions had been given to keep the election expenses under control.

He said proposals were given to the ECP for transparency in the electoral processes and the latter had assured that it would discharge its duties in line with the Constitution and law for the early conduct of elections.

Mr Iqbal said the commission was proposed to make the code of conduct effective and reduce the poll expenses. The commission, he noted, agreed to consider these proposals.

He said they invited the ECP’s attention to ensuring transparency in the forthcoming polls, keeping in view the RTS fiasco that marred the 2018 elections.

He said the commission assured them that an automated system was being developed to monitor elections as well as compile results. He said the delegation was assured that the system would be transparent and credible.

He said they also urged the ECP to thrash out an effective strategy for registration of women voters and their participation in the electoral process.

Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2023

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