KARACHI: Before starting the process of delimitation of constituencies, a fresh census should be conducted. Representatives of different political groups agreed on this at an all-party conference on Sindh local government (LG) elections, 2015, on Tuesday.
The conference, organised by the Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) at a local hotel, aimed to discuss issues and recommendations before the LG elections. Moderated by PML-N's Ismail Rahoo, the session also included a debate on the idea of having the elections in one day or in several parts.
"Votes of people who died after the 1998 elections are still being cast," said Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Karachi division president Ali Zaidi. "The people who couldn't vote in 1998 can vote now." He stressed the need for a fresh census. "Before starting delimitation, there should be a fresh census", he said. "You don't know about your population. There is no scientific process. They are drawing lines according to their own needs."
Pakistan Peoples Party representative Najmi Alam supported the demand for a fresh census. "Towns that were not even there [in 1998] are thriving now, for example, Shah Latif Goth", said Alam. He added that people should be allowed to vote in the area of their current residence so that they don't have to go to other provinces to cast their votes.
Zaidi added that the PTI wanted the elections to be held in three phases in three regions separately so that the 'Thappa Mafia' of any party was unable to succeed. He suggested that there should be Rangers and security cameras inside the polling booths. According to him, Pakistan should have a biometric system for elections.
Syed Jalal Mahmood Shah of the Sindh United Party was of the view that if delimitation cannot be done in a transparent way, nothing else can be transparent in the elections. "The census figures are according to the 1998 population and the voter list is that from 2011-2012. There is no criteria for dividing the blocks or delimitation but political motives of the parties." He complained that the election commission does not have the capacity to hold transparent elections on the same day.
Jamaat-e-Islami leader Muhammad Hussain Mehanti said that the federal government should play its part in making the local bodies' elections transparent. He demanded that these elections should be just like the by-election conducted in the Azizabad-based NA-246 constituency. "Rangers and Army should be in and out of the polling stations to ensure complete transparency," he said.
Meanwhile, he stressed that the election should be in one go so that the people don't follow the 'popular vote' pattern and instead vote according to their own wishes. Qaumi Awazi Tehreek's Ayaz Latif Palijo agreed with him. "In Qambar, a common man's life is made tough if he even tries to contest against a landlord. The same is in Shikarpur; ask anyone if you want", he said. "We need to see how the constituencies are being made in all the areas, in Gurumandir, in North Nazimabad".
All the party representatives agreed that the incidents of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa local bodies' elections should be avoided in Karachi. The moderator said that a committee will be formed that can consider all these recommendations.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 17th, 2015.
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