Islamabad April 8 2022: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Thursday said although it was fully committed to hold elections, yet it would require at least four additional months to complete the exercise of delimitation.
The elections could safely be held honestly, justly and fairly as ordained in Article 18(3) of the constitution, in October 2022, the ECP informed President Dr Arif Alvi in a letter.
The Commission said that the it was an independent constitutional entity, entrusted with the sacred duty of organizing and conducting elections in terms of Article 218(3) of the Constitution and to make such arrangements as were necessary to ensure that the election is conducted honestly, justly, fairly and in accordance with law and that corrupt practices were guarded against.
The delimitation of constituencies, it added, was one of the foundational steps towards the election. According to Article 51(5) of the Constitution and Section 17 of the Elections Act, 2017, the delimitation of constituencies was conducted on the basis of population in accordance with the last census officially published.
The provisional results of the 6th National Census 2017 were published on January 3, 2018 and accordingly the delimitation of national and provincial assemblies was carried out by the Commission on the basis of said results as a one-time dispensation granted by the amendment made under Article 51(5) of the Constitution for General Election 2018 for National Assembly and Provincial Assemblies.
“It is imperative to mention here that the final publication of official results of the Census was a constitutional requirement for delimitation of constituencies to the National and Provincial Assemblies for the next General Elections,” the ECP added.
Accordingly, the Commission made concerted efforts and took up the matter of final publication of official census results. In this regard separate letters were written to the Ministry of Law and Justice, Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, Bureau of Statistics, and the Secretary Senate and National Assembly respectively.
It added that by way of the 25th amendment to the Constitution erstwhile FATA was merged with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Twelve seats allocated to the Federal Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) were abolished and six seats were allocated to the KP on the basis of population, resultantly the number of seats in the National Assembly were reduced to 266 from 272.
Due to the reason, fresh delimitation was mandatory to be carried out in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa but it was not possible due to the non-publication of official census results by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), it said.
Finally, the Council of Common Interests (CCI) published the 6th National Census results after which the Commission started the process of delimitation and approved timelines for delimitation of constituencies for National and Provincial Assemblies.
In the meanwhile, the government decided to hold a fresh digital census. Resultantly the Commission was constrained to halt the process of delimitation for which the schedule had already been approved, the letter said.
Subsequently, letters were written to the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs for finalization and publication of fresh digital census results by the end of the year 2022 so that the process of delimitation could be initiated and completed well within time as the digital census was planned to be completed by March 2023.
However, the Election Commission did not receive any response from the ministry concerned, thereby further delaying the process of delimitation.
The letter said the Election Commission was not the sole authority to make decisions with regards to the conduct of elections and it remained dependent, under the law upon the Federal Government as well as the provincial governments for required feedback.
In case of any inaction or delay on the part of any Government to perform its duties and to assist the Commission, the delay in the conduct of delimitation cannot be attributed to the Commission by any stretch of the imagination.