Polls soon after delimitations finalised: ECP

Our Correspondent
Tuesday, Aug 29, 2023

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Monday said the delimitation of national and provincial constituencies would be completed as soon as possible following which the general elections would be conducted.

The Commission also assured delegations of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan (MQM-P) during separate consultative meetings here on the roadmap to elections and that every possible step would be taken to ensure free, fair and transparent polls.

Presided over by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja, the meetings were attended by the ECP members, secretary and senior officers of the Commission. The visitors were assured that the political parties would be consulted afresh on thrashing out the code of conduct for elections.

According to a statement issued by the Commission, the MQM delegation endorsed the ECP’s decision to go for fresh delimitations before elections and noted their party had reservations about the 2017 census results and a third party audit of census in five percent randomly selected blocks was carried out by the previous PTI government, started work on new census and declared the next elections would be held on the basis of fresh census.

They said Karachi being a mega city witnessed influx from different parts of the country and its population had substantially increased, and therefore, a fresh delimitation was essential as well as updating of the electoral rolls.

They stressed that the transfer of provincial officers and appointment of neutral officers should be ensured immediately so that the elections were transparent.

They proposed setting limits for the election expenses of the political parties to ensure transparency in the electoral process. The JI delegation criticised the initiation of consultative process after having announced the delimitation schedule, and said the Commission should have held it at an earlier stage.

They said under the Constitution, the general elections were to be held within 90 days after dissolution of an assembly.

The MQM delegation was led by Dr Farooq Sattar and comprised Javed Hanif, Zahid Malik and Yasir Ali, whereas the JI team was headed by its Secretary General Ameer ul Azeem and included Dr Farid Ahmad Paracha, Professor M Ibrahim, Mian Muhammad Aslam, Muhammad Nasrullah and Raja Arif Sultan.

During chat with the media after meeting the Election Commission, senior MQM leader Dr. Farooq Sattar emphasized that all the constitutional requirements must be met for elections and that the elections should be held on the basis of new constituencies.

Under the Constitution and the Elections Act, he contended, delimitation of constituencies was necessary after the new census but added, “We don’t want elections to be unnecessarily delayed. If delimitation can take place in 120 days, all other steps should be completed soon as well”.

He said none should be allowed to doubt anyone’s intentions, adding, “We and the Election Commission are on the page that elections should be held with new constituencies and as soon as possible”.

The new delimitations work, he argued, should be disposed of in the shortest possible time, complaining that their population was not represented in the right proportion, as Karachi’s population is deliberately underestimated.

However, he pointed out that during the six years’ time, Karachi’s population had increased by 27% i.e. by 7 million and this was the maximum increase while the mega city also faced a major influx from other parts of the country too.

To a question, he said that transparency in delimitations was the first guarantee towards free and transparent elections. He added in response to their proposals, the Election Commission assured that they would fulfill all constitutional pre-requisites in the shortest possible time.

Talking to the media persons, Jamaat-e-Islami leaders Dr. Farid Paracha and Ameer ul Azeem said they had apprised the Commission of their reservations about taking the election beyond 90 days and said the schedule of elections should have been given along with the schedule of delimitation.

They also shared their concerns in relation to the electoral rolls. The JI leaders were of the view that the Election Commission should be autonomous and that when the National Assembly was dissolved, it should have been explained why it was dissolved first. “We have asked the Election Commission to take suo motu action and do not go by complaints,” they maintained.