• ECP says parity required between different constituencies of a district, not a province
• Claims 10pc limit exceeded in 64 constituencies only
• PTI fears ‘indefinite’ delay in polls, requests CJP to intervene
ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Monday justified the wide variation in the population of various constituencies in the preliminary delimitation scheme, saying parity only had to be maintained between populations of constituencies within a district, not the province.
Referring to an analysis by Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen), without naming the organisation, the election watchdog said the analysis regarding the preliminary delimitation report was based on a misunderstanding.
In a statement, the ECP said that under Article 51, 266 National Assembly seats have been allocated to the provinces on the basis of their population.
“Keeping in view the seats allocated to the provinces and their population, their quota was worked out on the basis of which seats were allocated to each district under rule 8(2) following which, keeping in view the population of the districts and the number of their seats, the delimitation was carried out,” it explained.
In a reference to criticism, it said the organisation did not regard the district as a unit to determine the seats while analysing the variation in population size of constituencies. “Rather, the quota of the province was taken as a unit and the basic administrative unit i.e. the district was ignored, which has created ambiguity,” the ECP added.
Electoral experts, however, disagreed with the position taken by the ECP, asserting that the law governing principles of delimitation was very clear and it talks about the population of constituencies of an assembly and not a district. They asserted that a rule could not amend or override a legal provision.
Section 20(3) of the Elections Act reads, “As far as possible, variation in the population of constituencies of an assembly or a local government shall not ordinarily exceed 10 per cent.” Sub-section 4 says, “If the limit of 10 per cent under sub-section (3) is exceeded in an exceptional case, the commission shall record reasons thereof in the delimitation order.”
In addition to the population during delimitation, the ECP noted, there are other principles which are mentioned in Section 20 of the Elections Act 2017, including administrative unit and homogeneity, which the commission has taken into account during the preliminary delimitation, it said.
The ECP claimed there was a difference of over 10 per cent in only 64 constituencies and said that the reasons for this variation had been recorded.
It said the facility to file a representation is provided in the law and rules to correct the errors in the initial delimitation. If such an error is found in the initial delimitation which is not allowed by the law, it will be corrected during the hearing of the objections, the statement added.
ECP meeting today
On the other hand, the ECP will meet today to discuss matters related to inviting international observers to monitor upcoming general polls.
The Elections Act empowers the electoral body to invite local or foreign observers to monitor the elections.
In a related development, the ECP has put off a consultative meeting with representatives of political parties on the code of conduct for elections scheduled for October 4.
The meeting will now be held on October 11.
PTI seeks CJP’s intervention
Separately, the PTI core committee on Monday urged the chief justice to immediately intervene to safeguard the sanctity and respect of the Constitution, as the caretaker government, the ECP, and some political parties, which were part of the previous PDM coalition government, were depriving people of the right to vote “for an indefinite period”.
According to a statement, the PTI leadership requested the CJP to take measures to protect the sanctity of the Constitution as holding elections within 90 days limit was a mandatory constitutional requirement in the case of premature dissolution of the National Assembly. The statement did not reveal where the meeting of the core committee was held and who chaired it.
Published in Dawn, October 3rd, 2023