Islamabad: Pakistan’s top electoral body has defended its move to postpone the polls beyond the stipulated 90-day period, saying voters will not have true representation in Parliament without fresh delimitation of constituencies.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is caught in a difficult situation following the dissolution of the National Assembly August 9.
It must hold the next general elections by November 9 to fulfill a constitutional provision. The election commission must also fulfill another constitutional obligation which binds it to carry out fresh delimitation after the result of any census held countrywide was officially endorsed.
The seventh census was held in March and April and the previous government just days before the end of its term approved the outcome of the census.
The ECP cannot fulfill both constitutional obligations simultaneously and should violate one for the sake of the other, which is what it intends to do.
The election commission on Thursday announced the schedule of new delimitation to be carried out as per the new census approved by the Council of Common Interest (CCI) earlier this month.
As per the schedule, the new delimitation of the constituencies across the country will be notified in December this year.
The ECP schedule showed that fresh delimitation will take nearly four months, meaning the general elections in the country cannot be held within 90 days of the dissolution of the provincial and national assemblies.
Political parties like Jamati-e-Islami and groups like Pakistan Bar Council representing lawyers lambasted the move to delay elections, prompting the election commission to clarify its position.
The election commission defended its decision to delay the polls, saying the exercise was a constitutional requirement for holding polls, and that without fresh delimitation of constituencies and updated electoral rolls, voters will not have true representation in parliament.
“Without fresh delimitation of constituencies, and updated electoral rolls, none of the voters of constituencies, contesting candidates and political parties will have true representation in Parliament and provincial assemblies which is the fundamental principle of constitutional democracy as envisaged by the Constitution,” it said.
The Dawn newspaper reported that in a written order on the question of delimitation after official notification of the census results, it said that fresh delimitation of constituencies was essential to ensure the fulfillment of duty under the Constitution.
The election commission said the move was necessary for the true representation of the electorate, political parties and contesting candidates to protect their fundamental rights and ensure that elections are conducted “honestly, justly and fairly”.
The detailed response by the ECP shows that its decision to delay the election was final until it is challenged in the Supreme Court, which through its verdict forced the election body to hold polls on time.