The Supreme Court had nullified the delimitation of constituencies carried out by Punjab and Sindh governments for the local government (LG) elections two months ago, and officials say the same could be the fate of the delimitations done by the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa administration.
The K-P government delimited the constituencies for the LG polls even though the apex court’s orders had made it clear that only the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) can conduct the process, which can take the PTI to court.
The Supreme Court in two separate verdicts on March 19 and 20 had nullified the delimitation exercises carried out by the Punjab and Sindh governments respectively, asking the ECP to demarcate constituencies in both provinces, thus setting a precedent.
“Since the delimitation […] is part of the process of organising and holding elections honestly, justly and fairly, which is the constitutional mandate of the ECP, the power to carry out such delimitations should vest with it,” said the March 19 short order authored by Chief Justice Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani.
“Right before the ECP announces the election schedule in K-P, anyone can approach the courts and challenge the fairness of delimitations on the same ground as those challenged in Punjab and Sindh,” a senior ECP official said.
Delimitation of constituencies has always been a tricky exercise and can easily be manipulated into gerrymandering – the process of carving boundaries in a way that favours a party or candidate.
Officials of the ECP’s law wing said that since the detailed judgments on both the cases – Punjab and Sindh – are yet to come, they cannot comment on the matter. But they acknowledged the apparent contradiction if K-P’s delimitations are accepted by the court while Punjab and Sindh’s were not.
However, under the existing laws that need to be changed, the ECP is responsible for delimiting the constituencies of national and provincial assemblies but demarcation of the LG constituencies is left to the provinces.
The K-P government last month conceded their demand for biometric verification of voters in all constituencies in the next LG polls and asked the ECP to use biometric machines in one tehsil of the province as a pilot project. It was expected that the much-delayed LG polls in the province might take place by September-October this year.
Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, during its general elections campaign, had promised to hold LG polls within three months after coming to power. If the issue of delimitations in K-P comes up at a time when the election schedule is announced, it will cause another long delay, according to ECP officials.
There is no LG system in place in any province since the local bodies’ system under former military ruler Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf expired in 2009. Balochistan had polls in December last year but local governments have yet not been formed there. The PML-N government in Punjab and PPP’s in Sindh have been accused of dragging their feet on the LG polls.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 25th, 2014.
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