Announcement of Delimitation Schedule by ECP Leads to Election Postponement

In Islamabad, on Thursday, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) unveiled the timetable for the forthcoming delimitation process, which will be executed in accordance with the newly approved census endorsed by the Council of Common Interest (CCI) earlier this month.

According to this timetable, the updated boundaries for constituencies throughout the nation will be formally announced in December of this year. The ECP’s schedule indicates that the process of redefining constituencies will extend for approximately four months, signifying that the general elections cannot take place within a 90-day period following the dissolution of the provincial and national assemblies.

The ECP conveyed that the constituency delimitation process will take place across the entire country from September 8 to October 7. Proposals concerning constituencies will be received from October 10 to November 8. The allotment of constituencies for the national and provincial assemblies will occur between September 5 and September 7, as stated by the electoral body.

Furthermore, administrative tasks linked to the constituencies will be wrapped up by August 31, and constituency committees for the four provinces, including Islamabad, will be constituted by August 21. The ECP articulated that it will adjudicate objections related to the constituencies between November 10 and December 9, noting that the final release of the digital census has been accomplished.

In compliance with the Election Act, the ECP is mandated to establish new boundaries for a multitude of provincial and national assembly constituencies nationwide, as emphasized in the statement.

Earlier this month, the CCI convened under the leadership of the then Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, endorsing the conclusive findings of the 7th Population and Housing Census 2023, which documented the nation’s population at 241.49 million, exhibiting a growth rate of 2.55%.

The constitutional validation of the CCI’s decision necessitates the ECP to conduct elections subsequent to the fresh delimitation based on the outcomes of the 7th census. According to Article 51 (5) of the Constitution, the allocation of seats in the National Assembly for each province and the federal capital is contingent on population distribution as per the last preceding officially published census.

In order to allow the ECP the time to organize elections within 90 days, instead of the customary 60 days following the conclusion of the legislature’s constitutional tenure, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM)-led government pretermitted the national and provincial assemblies of Sindh and Balochistan.

Former federal ministers, including Rana Sanaullah, posited that the constituency delimitation process might result in elections being postponed until March of the following year.

The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), on Wednesday, took legal action by filing a petition in the Supreme Court, urging for an order mandating the ECP to declare a date for polls to the national and provincial assemblies, in accordance with Article 224(2) of the Constitution.

Within its petition, the SCBA beseeched the apex court to suspend the CCI’s decision made on August 5. Casting doubts on the proceedings of the August 5 CCI meeting, the SCBA underscored that the interim chief ministers were not qualified to participate in the session, citing the presence of the prime minister, the chief ministers of Sindh and Balochistan, and the caretaker chief ministers of Punjab and KP, along with other federal ministers.