ISLAMABAD: As the country gears for general elections, the electoral representation of each province tells a startling story of unequal representation. Punjab has maintained its apparently unchallengeable lion’s share of 57 percent in the 2012 final electoral rolls (FERs), consisting of 84.365 million voters, it was learnt Tuesday. Sindh follows Punjab in the national electoral pool with a share of 22 percent, followed by Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa with 14 per cent. Finally Pakistan’s area-wise largest but population-wise smallest province Balochistan enjoys a meagre share of 4 percent of the electoral representation. With a special status in the federation is the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) with its share of 2 percent. The federal capital, meanwhile, accounts for just 1 percent of the share in the entire pool of registered voters.
Keeping in view its massive chunk in the electorate, Punjab has a share of 147 seats in the total pool of 272 general constituencies in the National Assembly. Sindh — with 18,432,876 voters and its share of 22 per cent in the electoral pool — has 61 NA constituencies.
KP, lagging behind Sindh by around 6 million registered voters, has a share of 35 constituencies in the Lower House of Parliament, followed by Balochistan, which comprises of about 44 percent of Pakistan’s total area but has only 14 NA constituencies. Meanwhile, 12 NA seats go to Fata while 2 are offered to the federal capital. Needless to say there is a need, at the very least, to review Balochistan’s share in National Assembly seats, particularly at a time when the most neglected province is facing insurgency in at least three of its districts and is being debated not only at a national but also at a regional and global level. “It is the sense of participation in national matters and decision-making that ensures strengthening of a federation and people’s faith in it, and the best way forward is to give some more NA seats to Balochistan,” emphasised a senior ECP official, who confided to The News on the condition of anonymity when his views on the present share of provinces in the National Assembly were sought.
The source was of the opinion that it was time to look into Balochistan’s affairs as a special case, giving due consideration to its area instead of population, which could well be less than that of Lahore. Similarly, senior ANP leader Senator Shahi Syed, in a speech made during last week’s debate in the Senate on Balochistan, presented an overview of the problem and its partial (unique) solution by increasing the province’s NA seats from 14 to 65. The senator, who arrived complete with statistics and calculations, pointed out that one MNA was available for a stretch of over 25,000 square kilometres of Balochistan area, whereas the situation was entirely different in Punjab, where one MNA was responsible for an average area of just 1,398 square kilometres. With a substantial reduction in the area of each NA constituency in the province, he noted, an elected representative of people would be in a far better position to serve his constituency. Moreover, the increased representation of Balochistan would also go a long away in mainstreaming the province along with the rest of the country. “The increase in Balochistan’s share in the National Assembly will also help promote democratic values and help end massive disparity and discrimination with reference to the province in the legislature,” he maintained. When contacted by telephone to know whether the proposal he made on the floor of the Senate was his own or enjoyed party backing, he said he was confident that the ANP would have no objection in seeing it implemented.