Potential election delay as ECP tackles legalities

Commission convenes crucial meeting on delimitations today

Hasnaat Malik August 16, 2023


Signs are emerging that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is adopting a deliberate stance in refraining from promptly announcing a schedule for the upcoming general election.

This approach is attributed to the commission’s engagement with legal intricacies concerning the recently sanctioned digital census.

The census mandate necessitates the reconfiguration of electoral constituencies, a process demanding careful attention and ample time.

As a member of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) issued a warning about a potential delay in upcoming elections, the ECP has convened a meeting to deliberate on strategies for conducting polls based on the recently endorsed population census.

The census was greenlit just days before the previous government's term concluded.

Sources indicate that the ECP has initiated informal discussions with legal experts regarding the process of constituency delimitation, following the Council of Common Interest's (CCI) endorsement of the seventh digital census on August 5. A pivotal session of the commission is scheduled for today (Wednesday).

Pertinently, Article 51(5) of the Constitution and Section 17 (2) of the Elections Act, 2017 stipulate the requirement for finalized and published census data for delineating constituencies.

Once the census data is officially released, the ECP is obligated to initiate the delimitation procedure.

A senior ECP official elucidated that there is no immediate necessity to announce the date for general elections, as a window until September 12 is available. Another official noted that the ECP could potentially extend this date until September 20.

Legal experts posit that the Supreme Court may play a role in orchestrating the next general elections. The actions of the upcoming Chief Justice of Pakistan, Qazi Faez Isa, could significantly influence the electoral landscape.

These experts suggest that the ECP should proactively approach the Supreme Court, seeking guidance on conducting elections within the 90-day timeframe following the digital census approval.

A recent judgment by Justice Munib Akhtar similarly advocates for the ECP to seek relief from the top court if executive authorities hinder the commission from fulfilling its constitutional duty under Article 220—ensuring fair elections.

Simultaneously, PPP Senator Mian Raza Rabbani has issued a statement underscoring the dwindling time for the ECP to fulfill its constitutional mandate under Article 224. He emphasizes that it has been six days since the dissolution of the National Assembly and that the clock is ticking.

Senator Rabbani voices concerns over the ECP's lack of comprehensive communication about the election process.

He urges the ECP to provide a clear timeline for constituency delimitation following the digital census, urging them to consider the significance of this task and not merely follow precedents set by Punjab and K-P provincial assemblies.

Rabbani highlights the potential ramifications of any delay in conducting general elections within the stipulated constitutional period, warning that such consequences could have a far-reaching impact on the federation.

He underscores the urgency for the ECP to act decisively to uphold its constitutional obligations and prevent adverse outcomes.

In light of these developments, all eyes are on the Election Commission of Pakistan as it navigates the complexities of timing, legal processes, and constitutional imperatives in the lead-up to the next general elections.


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