- PML-N tells ECP all parties agreed on holding polls on new census.
- Asks ECP to conduct delimitation, renew electoral rolls simultaneously.
- Also urges ECP to hold consultations on election code of conduct.
ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Friday backed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to hold polls after carrying out delimitation of constituencies based on the new census.
The assurance was given when a PML-N delegation — comprising Ahsan Iqbal, Rana Sanaullah, Zahid Hamid, Azam Nazeer Tarar, Ataullah Tarar and Asad Junejo — met Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikander Sultan Raja and other officials as part of the ECP’s consultative process on the general elections.
As per the election watchdog, the PML-N delegation informed the ECP that the Council of Common Interest (CCI) had unanimously given the approval for the publication of census results.
“All political parties agreed that 2023 elections should be held as per the new census. The delimitation schedule issued by the Election Commission is in accordance with the Constitution and the law,” the PML-N informed the ECP as per the watchdog.
However, the electoral authority said that the PML-N asked the watchdog to carry out the process of renewal of electoral rolls simultaneously with the delimitation.
“Delimitation of constituencies and renewal of electoral rolls should be completed in a single phase, there should be no delay in holding the elections,” the PML-N was quoted.
The party also asked the ECP to hold the consultation process on the code of conduct again and called for a ban on hate speech. It also urged that in order to reduce the cost of candidates’ expenses only posters and stickers should be allowed during the campaign.
The PML-N also added that individual candidates should not be allowed to do media campaigns only parties should be given that right.
On the other hand, CEC Raja assured the PML-N that the ECP will conduct the delimitation and renewal of electoral rolls simultaneously. He also assured that the political parties will be consulted before a code of conduct for elections is finalised.
“The election will be free and fair. All political parties will get the same chance during the polls,” Raja said. He also added that strict action will be taken if anyone violates the code of conduct.
ECP decides to hold consultations with parties
Earlier this week, sources had told Geo News that ECP has decided to consult all major political parties, including the PTI, regarding the date of general elections that are expected early next year.
As per the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the ECP had decided to consult the political parties separately on developing an election roadmap as well as issues related to delimitation and voter lists.
PML-N is the third party that the ECP has consulted.
A day earlier, the election watchdog had met delegations of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), separately.
In those meetings, the JUI-F had backed the ECP to hold general elections after the delimitation while the PTI had urged the electoral watchdog to drop the process and conduct polls with 90 days.
Uncertainty around polls
The decision to hold the consultative process came after uncertainty emerged on when the polls will be conducted.
The Shehbaz Sharif-led government dissolved the National Assembly on August 9, while Sindh and Balochistan assemblies were also prematurely dissolved to allow the electoral authority to hold elections in the country within 90 days instead of 60 days if the legislature completed its constitutional tenure.
However, the ECP may not be able to hold the polls within the stipulated time as the Council of Common Interest (CCI), days before the dissolution of the assemblies, approved the 7th Population and Housing Census 2023.
The CCI meeting chaired by then-prime minister Shehbaz Sharif approved the final results of the census reporting the country’s population at 241.49 million with a growth rate of 2.55%.
The CCI approval made it constitutionally mandatory for the poll watchdog to hold elections following fresh delimitations in the light of the results of the 7th census.
According to Article 51 (5) of the Constitution, the seats of the National Assembly to each province and the federal capital shall be allocated on the basis of population in accordance with the last preceding census officially published.
Subsequently, on August 17, the ECP announced the schedule of new delimitations to be carried out as per the new census approved by the CCI.
As per the schedule, the new delimitation of constituencies nationwide will be notified in December this year.
The ECP schedule showed that fresh delimitation will take nearly four months, meaning the general elections in the country cannot be held within 90 days of the dissolution of the provincial and national assemblies.