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December 4, 2020

ECP hints at delay in LG polls, general election-2023

Top Story

December 4, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja Thursday said delay in constituencies’ delimitation process could cause unnecessary delay in holding of local government (LG) elections in Sindh, Balochistan and cantonment board areas.

There would also be difficulties in holding of general election 2023 if the related processes not completed on time, he warned.

Chairing a meeting of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) here, he highlighted the implications of non-publication of the official census statistics, saying without its publication, the ECP could not start the process of delimitation of the constituencies.

The meeting was attended by the ECP members, Secretary Election Commission, Secretary Parliamentary Affairs, senior consultant Law and Justice Division and other officers of the Election Commission.

The CEC informed the participants that timely conduct of elections was a responsibility of the ECP under Articles 140 and 219 of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973. He said the ECP was bound under Section 17 (1) of the Elections Act 2017 to hold the local government elections. Under sub-section 2 of the same section, the Election Commission would demarcate the constituencies after the official publication of the census. He stressed that under Section 219 (4) of the Election Act, local government elections should be held by the Election Commission within 120 days of the expiration of the term of local governments. The CEC said that the Election Commission had asked the Sindh government to provide maps and other necessary data.

In response, the Sindh government apologised for providing the above data and said that according to the law, the Election Commission was not authorised to delimit constituencies on the basis of the provisional census data. So, until the official census 2017 data was published, the delimitation process should be postponed.

In the meantime, the CEC pointed out that the MQM had filed a constitutional petition No 2020/2948 in the Sindh High Court, seeking that the ECP be barred from conducting delimitation of constituencies for the local government elections until the official census 2017 was published. The last hearing of the case was held in the Sindh High Court on Nov 24, 2020, in which instructions were issued to the Election Commission to write a letter to the agencies concerned for official publication of the census data. Thursday's meeting was called keeping in view the court orders.

In this regard, the secretary Parliamentary Affairs and the secretary Law and Justice were invited to assist the Election Commission. The secretary Parliamentary Affairs told the Election Commission that the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics had stated that the committee of ministers, constituted by the federal cabinet was tasked to finalise the results of the 2017 census. It had held six meetings so far. The minutes of the first three meetings had been released and preparation of minutes of the remaining three meetings was still in process. The committee has not yet finalised its report/ recommendations. As soon as the committee would submit its report to the cabinet, a case would be referred to the Council of Common Interests (CCI) for approval of the final census result.

The committee chairman, who is also the minister for Maritime Affairs, had been reminded several times to complete his recommendations on the publication of the 2017 census at the earliest. The commission was also informed that the status of six meetings of the committee was also stated in the 43rd meeting of the CCI, held on Nov 11, 2020.

He said that immediate solution to the problem was official publication of the results of the 2017 census, or the government would have to adopt an alternative strategy through a law. He assured the Election Commission that the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs would play its role in this regard. The law ministry will take up the matter on a priority basis so that the issue can be resolved. After consultation with the law minister, the law division would assist the Election Commission as soon as possible.

The ECP directed the two officers to take up the matter with the ministers concerned and the government and assist the ECP in this national and legal matter.