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November 14, 2017

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Elections 2018 to be held on time

Elections 2018 to be held on time

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) on Monday announced to support the government’s Delimitation Bill, 2017 paving the way for the delimitation of constituencies based on provisional results of the population census after the Sindh government conditionally agreed on it in the meeting of the Council of Common Interests (CCI).

“We will support the government’s Constitutional Amendment Bill for the delimitation of the electoral constituencies to hold the general elections in time in 2018. Though the government delayed accepting the PPP demand of presenting the delimitation of constituencies in the CCI meeting, it is better late than never,” said Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah while talking to newsmen. In this way, the last hitch in enabling the government to hold the next general elections on the scheduled time is removed.

National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq also summoned a meeting of the parliamentary parties’ heads on Wednesday to take the decision on the Delimitation Bill, 2017. The Wednesday meeting  is expected to make a headway on the approval of the Delimitation Bill envisaging the constitutional amendment for the delimitation of the electoral constituencies and increase in the seats of the National Assembly on the basis of provisional results of the population census.

Talking to the newsmen, Syed Khursheed Shah said that the government accepted the PPP demand to take up the issue in the CCI meeting as PPP stance was constitutional and in the public interests. He said the PPP always adopted constitutional and public interests stance that would increase the prestige of the constitutional and democratic institutions. The opposition leader said that the government has taken a positive step by taking up the issue in the CCI meeting.

Under the Delimitation Bill 2017, though the number of general seats will  be retained at 272, there would be change in allocation for the provinces and on the basis of provisional results of the population census, Punjab will lose 7 general seats and 2 reserved seats, Khyber Pukhtunkhwa will get an increase of five seats that include four general and one reserved seat, Balochistan will also get an increase of three electoral seats -- 2 general seats and one reserved seat while one general seat of the National Assembly will be increased for Islamabad and there would be no change in seats allocation for Sindh and Fata. The constituency of National Assembly will comprise 7,80,000 population. Under the criterion, the National Assembly’s general seats from Punjab will be reduced to 141 from 148 and reserved seats for women will be cut down from 35 to 33.

The National Assembly’s general seats from Khyber Pukhtunkhwa will be increased from 35 to 39 and reserved seats for women from 8 to 9. Similarly, the general seats for the National Assembly from Balochistan will be increased from 14 to 16 and reserved seats for women from 3 to 4 while Islamabad’s general seats will also rise from 2 to 3.

There will be no change in the overall seats of Sindh, which will remain at 75 and similarly, the number of Fata seats will remain unchanged at 12. The Council of Common Interests (CCI) under Chairmanship of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi decided to conduct verification of one percent area in Karachi for checking the authenticity of census exercise by hiring a third party after which all the parties agreed to extend conditional support for passing the delimitation bill through the Parliament.

When contacted, Adviser to Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) Asif Bajwa told The News after the CCI meeting that the PBS is assigned to undertake verification exercise for population census results in urban center of Sindh through hiring of third party by an open and transparent bidding process.

Another official of the PBS said that they would hire a third party through open tender and this sample verification survey exercise would be accomplished before the final results of population census would be announced. “We will complete this sample survey before releasing the final results of census till April 2018,” said the official and added that all the stakeholders at CCI agreed on extending conditional support to the delimitation bill for holding next general elections in accordance with the constitutional requirements.

Although, the incumbent regime seems to have overcome controversy over census exercise but this whole exercise is planned in haphazard manner, creating real problems for the government at the last moment.

First of all, this census should have been done on computer tablets because it possesses technology of having Global Positioning System (GPS) to get picture of locations and individuals responding to enumerators at time of filling out required information during this important exercise which will have far-reaching impact for the sake of planning purposes of the country over the next decade. Its authenticity and reliability could have been ensured up to maximum but things were settled in a hurry instead of devising foolproof mechanism to undertake this task.

It could have caused a few million dollars in terms of cost for publishing readable forms, transportation of 50 million forms at each and every corner of the country, filling under security and then dispatching back to central data warehouse at Islamabad via provincial, districts and tehsil headquarters.

In case of manual forms, the PBS high-ups now require 18 to 20 months period for publishing complete results of the population census. It was important to consider requirement of time for completing the whole data of census because it could delay the delimitation exercise to be carried out by the Election Commission of Pakistan.

The cost incurred on tablets was an issue, but it could have been settled in consultation with the provinces and donors to avoid surfacing of a difficult situation at this juncture.

“If India could use tablets census in its last population census, why we did not use it,” one official questioned and added that it should be investigated properly that why it was not allowed to be used during the census exercise.

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