The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday issued its schedule for fresh delimitation of constituencies following the approval of the digital census by the Council of Common Interest (CCI) earlier this month, indicating general elections are unlikely to occur this year.
According to the schedule, the process began on Aug. 17 (Thursday), with the freezing of boundaries of administrative units nationwide. Following this, by Aug. 21 (Monday), the ECP would form delimitation committees for all provinces, as well as Islamabad, under Rule 9 of the Election Rule 2017.
From Aug. 22 through Aug. 31, the committees would requisition maps as well as other relevant data of districts, tehsils etc. from provincial governments. They would also obtain district census reports, digitized maps of census charges, circles and blocks along with their description from the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics.
The Delimitation Committees would then undergo training from Sept. 1 through Sept. 4, followed by the determination and sharing of district quotas for national and provincial assemblies’ seats with Delimitation Committees from Sept. 5 to Sept. 7, under Rule 8 and Rule 9(3) of the Election Rules 2017.
From Sept. 8 through Oct. 7, under sections 19 and 20 of the Elections Act 2017, preliminary delimitation of constituencies would be conducted by the Delimitation Committees. On Oct. 9, the preliminary proposals for delimitation of constituencies would be published under Section 21 of the Elections Act, 2017.
Oct. 10 through Nov. 8, under Section 21(2) of the Elections Act 2017, have been designated for the filing of representation on preliminary proposals for delimitation of constituencies before the ECP. This would be followed by, from Nov. 10 through Dec. 9, the disposal and hearing of all representations under Section 21(4) of the Elections Act, 2017.
On Dec. 14, the ECP would publish the final delimitation under the new census.
While the ECP statement does not make any mention of general elections, due in November following the dissolution of the National Assembly last week, the schedule makes clear that preparation for polls cannot start before Dec. 15, at the earliest. Factoring in 60-90 days for that process, it is unlikely that polls would take place before mid-February or mid-March.
The need for fresh delimitation follows the previous government’s decision to approve the results of the 7th Population and Housing Census 2023 earlier this month through the CCI, making mandatory for the ECP to hold elections only after fresh delimitations. The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) has challenged this in the Supreme Court, arguing that the CCI’s decision was “illegal” as Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa were represented by caretaker chief ministers who lacked the mandate to take such important decisions.