The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Monday said it would wrap up the delimitation of national and provincial assembly constituencies “as soon as possible” and ensure that polls were immediately held after the exercise.
The assurance was held out to delegations of the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) and the Mutahidda Qaumi Movement Pakistan (MQM-P), who had consultative meetings with the ECP on the roadmap to polls.
Earlier this month, the ECP ruled out elections this year, following the notification of the latest 2023 digital census. Since the National Assembly was dissolved three days before the end of its constitutional term, Article 224 of the Constitution mandates that elections be held within 90 days of the dissolution of the assembly.
But at the same time, Section 17(2) of the Elections Act states that “the commission shall delimit constituencies after every census is officially published.”
In line with this requirement, the ECP last week said that the process of fresh delimitation was expected to be completed by December 14 — over a month beyond the constitutionally mandated deadline for conducting general elections.
The development had caused President Dr Arif Alvi to invite Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja for a meeting to “fix an appropriate date” for general elections. Responding to the invite, the CEC had said participating in such a confab would be of “scant importance” after changes to the election law.
Meanwhile, the election commission is currently involved in consultations with political parties to construct an effective election plan. Apart from JI and MQM-P, delegations from PTI, PML-N and JUI-F have also engaged with the ECP as a part of the ongoing process.
Today’s meetings with JI and MQM were presided over by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikander Sultan Raja.
In a press release issued later in the evening, the ECP said the JI delegation, headed by Ameerul Azeem, was of the opinion that the consultation process should have commenced at an earlier stage.
Azeem emphasized that the dissolution of both the national and provincial assemblies should have been avoided.
Additionally, the JI delegation proposed the implementation of a spending limit for political parties in relation to their expenses during electoral campaigns.
In his response, CEC Raja assured that the electoral body would transmit valuable recommendations provided by political parties to the parliament, aiming to ensure their translation into legislation.
The CEC highlighted that political parties would be re-engaged in discussions regarding the election code of conduct, with the aim of guaranteeing its compliance in both wording and essence.
The statement further said that Raja affirmed a commitment to rigorous election monitoring, with the establishment of an advanced monitoring room to facilitate this purpose.
Separately, the MQM delegation — led by Dr Farooq Sattar — “endorsed” the ECP’s decision to hold new delimitations, according to the watchdog’s statement.
“The MQM stressed the need to hold delimitations on the basis of you new census and also highlighted the drastic increase in Karachi’s population,” it added.