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Thursday July 25, 2024

Polls not being held in 90 days

Article 224 of Constitution binds ECP to conduct general elections within 90 days of dissolution of NA

By Mumtaz Alvi
August 18, 2023
The board, outside the premises of the Election Commission of Pakistan, can be seen in this picture. — ECP website/File
The board, outside the premises of the Election Commission of Pakistan, can be seen in this picture. — ECP website/File

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Thursday announced the schedule for carrying out fresh delimitation of constituencies hinting at a delay in the general elections beyond the constitutional limit of 90 days.

The Commission envisaged December 14 for final publication of delimitations.

The schedule was approved in accordance with the official results of 7th Population and Housing Census, 2023 and in pursuance of Article 51 of the Constitution and Section 17(2) of the Elections Act, 2017.

The Commission issued a notification, following its two meetings on August 16 and 17 after having received the digital census results from the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics on August 15, under which the boundaries of the administrative units across the country were be frozen.

Article 224 of the Constitution binds the Election Commission to conduct the general elections within 90 days of dissolution of the National Assembly, whereas Section 17(2) of the Act reads, “The commission shall delimit the constituencies after every census is officially published”.

Following the freezing of the boundaries of administrative units across the country, delimitation committees for all the provinces and the federal capital would be formed by August 21. Moreover, the administrative arrangements for delimitation, including the requisition of maps along with other necessary data, description of districts and tehsils from provinces, obtaining district census reports etc, would be completed between August 22 and 30.

Related training would be imparted to the delimitation committees between September 1 and 4, whereas district quotas for national and provincial assemblies would be shared with the delimitation committees from September 5 to September 7.

The committees would prepare the preliminary delimitations from September 8 to October 7 and publish them on October 9, following which the public would present objections and recommendations to the Election Commission on the initial delimitation from October 10 to November 8.

The Election Commission would hear and decide objections from November 10 to December 9 and the final list of constituencies would be published on December 14.

Meanwhile, the Commission issued a list of directives for “all those in service of Pakistan” to assist it in the process of delimitation under Article 220 of the Constitution so that elections could be held as enshrined in Article 218(3) of the Constitution.

As per instructions, the limits of revenue units shall stand frozen from August 17 and there shall be no change in the limits of revenue units till the completion of delimitation process.

The Commission has directed the provincial chief secretaries, chief commissioner, federal government and the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics to provide it with the notification of census changes, census circles and census blocks, maps in respect of census changes along with descriptions, copies of consolidated master maps of urban areas showing census changes/circles/blocks in metropolitan corporations, municipal corporations, municipal committees and town committees, list of revenue units authenticated by the authority with units, latest district maps according to the new census and marking of natural physical features on the maps.

In a related development, the Election Commission wrote to the Punjab caretaker chief minister and chief secretary a letter titled “Role of caretaker government for conduct of impartial and peaceful elections”.

“As you are aware that under Section 230 (2)(a) of the Elections Act, and subsequent guidelines dated 22nd January 2023, issued by the Election Commission, the caretaker government cannot take major policy decisions except on urgent matters to run the affairs of the government on day to day basis.”

The letter said, “It has been observed, by the electoral body, that the provincial government is taking major steps to change the land use in various districts of the province, the deputy commissioners are issuing NOCs for various housing societies, green areas are being compromised and by doing so agricultural land is being sacrificed. This will lead to mushroom and haphazard growth of residential areas. Moreover, element of corruption cannot be ruled out in certain cases. “To address this issue, there should be a proper policy which is beyond the mandate of the caretaker government and can only be formulated by the elected government. So issuance of new NOCs may immediately be stopped and instructions to this effect be issued to all deputy commissioners. In case, the caretaker government feels exigency in the said or any other matter, a comprehensive case with full justification may be sent for consideration and prior concurrence of the honourable commission,” it says.

The Commission said it expected the caretaker government to perform its duties as per its legal mandate and guidelines.

Meanwhile, some media outlets claimed the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja had called on Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Umar Ata Bandial on Wednesday. However, there was no official confirmation of the meeting.