PESHAWAR: Peshawar High Court has sought replies from federal and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments besides Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to a petition seeking holding of forthcoming general elections in the province as per allocation of National Assembly seats in 2018 polls.
A bench consisting of Justice Ijaz Anwar and Justice Shakeel Ahmad directed a deputy attorney general, Obaidullah, and an additional advocate general, Mubashir Manzoor, representing the federal and KP governments, respectively, that the comments should be filed within a fortnight.
The petition is filed by a citizen named Mohammad Javed Iqbal, challenging the 2023 digital census in relations to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and requesting the court to order recounting of population of all those districts in the province where the annual population growth rate was shown less than 2.55 per cent in the census.
The petitioner also prayed the court to declare as void and illegal the participation of KP caretaker minister in the meeting of Council of Common Interest (CCI) on August 5, 2023, wherein he agreed to ‘wrong and miscalculated’ population census of the province.
Petitioner has also challenged results of 2023 digital census
The petition sought interim relief from the court, requesting it to order maintenance of status quo in respect of the ongoing delimitation process of National Assembly constituencies in the province by ECP.
The bench also issued notices to the respondents on the plea seeking interim relief, observing that next date for hearing the plea would be fixed shortly.
The respondents in the petition are CCI through its secretary, Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) through its chief, federal government through ministry of planning, National Finance Commission through its secretary, Chief Election Commissioner of Pakistan, Provincial Election Commission through its secretary, federal finance secretary, KP caretaker chief minister, KP chief secretary and Provincial Bureau of Statistics, Peshawar.
Advocate Malik Mohammad Ajmal appeared for the petitioner and stated that his client had earlier challenged the 2017 population census wherein the respondents, especially PBS, had given assurance that the reservations expressed by him would be addressed in the 2023 census.
However, he stated that contrary to those assurances, once again the respondents including PBS had shown wrong picture of population figures of KP through its so-called digital census 2023.
The counsel said that the growth in population of KP as depicted in the census was neither in line with the growth trends shown in other two smaller provinces nor in line with the average growth trend in the country.
He argued that the representation in National Assembly from KP, previously called as North West Frontier Province, was diluted in previous elections such as that of 1977, 1985, 1988, 1990 up to 2013, but the seats were increased to some extent in the 2018 general polls.
He pointed out that in 2019 elections, there were 39 general National Assembly seats in KP and 12 in erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) making the total seats 51.
He stated that in the forthcoming general elections there would be total 45 general NA seats in KP including that of the merged districts, thus reducing six seats as compared to the previous elections.
Malik Ajmal contended that the caretaker chief minister jeopardised the interests of the province by agreeing to ‘wrong’ population census in the meeting of CCI. He stated that an elected chief minister would never have agreed to the census results.
He contended that population census was the primary source of allocation of National Assembly seats as well as distribution of resources under National Finance Commission (NFC).
Published in Dawn, October 2nd, 2023