No new delimitations of constituencies will be conducted by the Election Commission Pakistan (ECP) and the upcoming elections will be held on the basis of existing constituencies, ECP Secretary Ishtiaq Ahmad has said.
Briefing the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Monday, Ahmad said new delimitations were possible only after completion of the population census which had been delayed, necessitating the use of existing constituency boundaries.
Under the Delimitations Act, however, the ECP would make certain adjustments to existing constituencies on the basis of the Housing Census which had increased Census Blocks to 140,000 from 102,000, said Ahmad.
The PAC had summoned the ECP secretary to explain irregularities in commission accounts during 2005 and 2007.
Ahmad told the committee that a summary seeking a date for the census remained pending with the Council of Common Interests (CCI) and even if a new date was approved by CCI the census results would not be available before next year. The government had postponed the Population Census after irregular increase in population was reported in Karachi, Hyderabad and some districts of Balochistan under the Housing Census.
The statement by the ECP will put to rest speculations of gerrymandering by the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party to benefit its candidates in the upcoming elections.
PAC Chairman Nadeem Afzal Chan during the meeting said that free and fair elections were essential in the country. He raised concern over the Supreme Court’s decision to bar judges from becoming returning officers. “The returning officers must be from the judiciary because elections under provincial administrators will lead to rigging,” added Chan.
Ishtiaq Ahmad highlighted that the ECP had filed a petition seeking review of the Supreme Court decision as per its Judicial Policy 2009, however the apex court had not revoked the decision. “The ECP would again take up the matter with the Supreme Court on the request of the PAC,” said Ahmad.
As an alternative mechanism the ECP has forwarded a bill to parliament seeking permission to place all administrative machinery under the control of the commission to ensure free and fair polls.
The bill is pending in the Standing Committee and must be passed before the next general elections, said Ahmad.
With elections expected to be held next year and the appointment of an independent chief election commissioner (CEC), the ECP has taken on full responsibilities for preparations of the general elections.
Meanwhile, CEC Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim, is expected to announce final electoral rolls on Tuesday (today). The lists would publicly be available and open to correction of any mistake on account of address and deletion of a voter name.
According to ECP estimates 84 million voters are currently registered in the finalised electoral rolls who will be able to exercise their democratic right in the forthcoming general elections.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2012.