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Wednesday May 22, 2024

Reference against CEC will likely damage PTI

"We earnestly want him to file the reference," says an ECP official

By Umar Cheema
April 20, 2022
Former prime minister Imran Khan (L) and Chief Election Commissioner Sikander Sultan Raja (R). The News/File
Former prime minister Imran Khan (L) and Chief Election Commissioner Sikander Sultan Raja (R). The News/File

ISLAMABAD: If Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) files a reference against the Chief Election Commissioner for displaying "incompetence" by not carrying out delimitation on time, this will turn out counterproductive as the Election Commission of Pakistan has solid evidence to suggest the delay occurred due to the 'incompetence' of the PTI government instead.

“We earnestly want him to file the reference. That will be a God-send opportunity for us to vindicate our position. We have each word document as and when the PTI government was approached with this request and how this delay occurred,” said an ECP official, reacting to Imran Khan’s resolve to file a reference against Sikandar Sultan Raja, the CEC.

The former prime minister told journalists at his Banigala residence late Monday that his party would file a reference against the CEC for displaying incompetence and blamed him for the delay in the delimitation of constituencies without which holding elections couldn’t be made possible. It was in this backdrop that the Supreme Court’s bench hearing the suo motu case regarding the dissolution of the National Assembly on April 3, didn’t give a time-frame for the fresh elections.

The last election was held on the basis of the provisional delimitation but that was allowed for one time only as the census had been held at that time but its result was not notified. General elections cannot be held, according to the Article 51(5) of the Constitution, without fresh delimitation. Contrary to the allegations levelled by Imran Khan, documentary evidence held the PTI government responsible for not letting the ECP carry out delimitation.

From May 2020 to May 2021, the ECP wrote many letters, right from the then-PM Imran Khan down to secretary law, secretary parliamentary affairs and Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, reminding them of the constitutional obligation of delimitation and that it was not possible unless the census 2017’s result was notified. They were also reminded about the constitutional petition of the MQM pending against the census and that the matter should be resolved, so the ECP could initiate its work.

As the government granted approval to the 2017 census so that ECP could start delimitation, the Council of Common Interest’s meeting was convened in May 2021, which decided to carry out a fresh census – digital census – so that the new elections would be held in the light of its results. The ECP wrote another letter urging the government to complete it by December 2021 the latest as delimitation would require around eight months.

The digital census has not yet been started as the government-run company, National Radio and Telecommunication Corporation, has been unable to provide the equipment required for carrying out the digital census. Frustrated by this, the ECP has decided to conduct delimitation on the basis of 2017 census but this inordinate delay has occurred due to the PTI government.