The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Friday announced that it has decided to shorten the timeframe of the delimitation of constituencies and will complete the process by November 30.

Though it would still be a violation of the Constitution, which requires the conduct of polls within 90 days after the dissolution of assemblies, the ECP decision allays fears that the elections could be delayed for several months.

In a press release issued today, the electoral body said: “The purpose of reducing the time frame of delimitation is to hold elections as soon as possible.”

“The polls schedule will be announced keeping this date in mind,” it stated, adding that the decision was taken after feedback from political parties.

The ECP has been holding consultations with various parties on the electoral roadmap in recent days. The meetings come against the backdrop of the electoral watchdog ruling out elections this year, while the 90-day limit for holding polls — mandated under Article 224 of the Constitution, ends on November 9.

The ECP reasons its decision to push elections beyond November 9 on the basis of the notification of results of the new digital 2023 census and Section 17(2) of the Elections Act, which states: “The commission shall delimit constituencies after every census is officially published.”

In line with this requirement, the ECP had earlier said the process of fresh delimitation is expected to be completed by December 14 — over a month beyond the constitutionally mandated deadline for conducting general elections.

However, in its meeting with political parties over the past week, the ECP has given reassurances that general elections would be held by mid-February at any cost, perhaps by late January if the delimitation of constituencies is completed earlier.

The electoral body also 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.

Meeting with GDA

Earlier today, a consultative meeting took place between the ECP and the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) to discuss a roadmap for the coming elections.

The meeting was presided over by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja. Fehmida Mirza, Safdar Abbasi, Kashif Nazamani and Ibn Muhammad were part of the GDA delegation while party leaders Sardar Abdul Rahim and Irfanullah Khan Marwat participated via video link.

According to a handout issued by the electoral watchdog, the GDA delegation lent full support to ECP’s delimitation plan and said that delimitation was the basis of holding transparent polls.

“Therefore, the delimitation process should be completed according to the new census, and elections should be held after the new delimitation,” the statement quoted the delegation as saying.

The delegation also said that electoral lists should be revised so that votes can be registered, corrected and deleted accordingly. The GDA also said that the transfers of provincial officers should be ensured as per the ECP’s order. It noted that despite the CEC writing letters to the interim chief ministers, transfer and posting of officials was not being carried out.

The delegation also said that impartial officials should be appointed as returning officers (RO). If possible, district election commissioners and officials from federal services should be appointed as ROs, the delegation said, adding that the election schedule should be announced after completing all these arrangements.

The delegation also said that the ECP had prepared an “action plan” and it should be strictly followed. It said that all municipal administrations should be suspended until the election and administrators should be appointed to ensure transparent elections.

The ECP statement quoted CEC Raja as saying that conducting transparent elections under the law and the Constitution was the commission’s responsibility.

He said that the commission took the GDA’s input seriously and would decide on the suggestions in light of the law and the Constitution. “The ECP will ensure transparency in the delimitation exercise,” he said.

CEC Raja said told the delegation that in light of their feedback and consultations with other political parties, the ECP had called a meeting for today. “The ECP will announce the election schedule after further reducing the duration of the delimitation process,” he said.

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