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CCI Approves Digital Census Results

General elections likely to be delayed by several months as ECP now required to conduct fresh delimitation

by Staff Report

Photo courtesy PID

The Council of Common Interests (CCI) on Saturday approved the results of the 2023 digital census, all but ensuring a delay to general elections, which must now be conducted only after fresh delimitation of constituencies in light of increased population figures.

Earlier, several parties, including key coalition partner Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) had opposed conducting the elections under the fresh census, but Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah also agreed to approving its result, raising questions over its sincerity to holding polls on time. Government ally Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M), however, has rejected the CCI’s decision.

Ahead of the CCI meeting, questioned were raised over the government lacking the numbers required for a constitutional amendment to alter the makeup of the National Assembly. However, Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar has rubbished this, claiming the increase in population was insufficient to require alterations to provincial seat allocations in the Lower House. Fresh delimitation, however, would be required for all provincial assemblies. Earlier, he had said that elections could be delayed by 2-3 months once the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) starts the process of fresh delimitation.

Saturday’s CCI meeting was chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and attended by the chief ministers of Sindh and Balochistan, and the caretaker chief ministers of Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Additionally, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, JUIF leader Asad Mehmood, Khalid Magsi of the Balochistan Awami Party, I.T. Minister Aminul Haque of the MQM, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar were also present.

Justifying the decision to approve the digital census results, the law minister has claimed there were “reservations” about the 2017 census. He further claimed that the question of a delay to polls was now with the ECP, which he claimed could conduct the delimitation in less than 120 days.

The MQM-P, which had repeatedly called for polls under the new census, has hailed the development, declaring it a “victory” of its narrative.

According to the results presented in the CCI by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, Pakistan’s population has increased to 241.49 million, showing an annual growth rate of 2.55%. According to the published data, Punjab’s population has grown by 2.53% to 127.68 million; Sindh’s by 2.57% to 55.69 million; Balochistan’s by 3.2% to 14.89 million; Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s by 2.38% to 40.85 million; and Islamabad’s to 2.36 million with a growth rate of 2.81%. It has reported that 61.18% of the country’s population lives in rural areas, while 38.82% is urban.

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