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ISLAMABAD: Election Commission of Pakistan's (ECP)'s dispute with Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and its provincial government in Sindh seemed heading towards a resolution on Tuesday after the electoral body announced to accept the PPP and Sindh government's demand and directed the federal government authorities to take steps for officially notifying the results of population census, 2017.

The decision was taken in a top-level meeting presided over by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja and attended by Members Election Commission (MECs) and Secretary ECP Dr Akhtar Nazir, the ECP said in a statement.

The Secretary ECP briefed the meeting that the Commission is constitutionally bound to hold local government elections in Sindh within 120 days after the completion of local bodies' tenure in the province (August 30, 2020), the statement said. The Commission reviewed the stance of PPP and Sindh government and directed the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs and Ministry of Law and Justice to take up with the federal government the issue of non-notification of census results, 2017, and have this process expedited in order to have the results of census, 2017, officially notified, it added.

Earlier on September 7, 2020, the ECP said that it would take an "appropriate decision as per constitution and law" in the backdrop of electoral body's dispute with PPP and Sindh government over the Commission's delimitation plan for Sindh in connection with holding the LG elections. The ECP issued this statement following a meeting between top ECP officials, PPP leaders and Sindh government representatives in a bid to resolve the issue.

The PPP leaders and Sindh government officials are of the view that Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) did not officially notify the results of population census carried out in 2017 and, therefore, keeping in view the relevant constitutional provisions, the ECP cannot hold LG elections in Sindh on unofficial census data.

On September 4, 2020, the ECP removed Provincial Election Commissioner Sindh Javed Khan Afridi from his position and directed to report to the ECP headquarters. He was replaced with Aijaz Anwer Chohan who was performing duties at the ECP headquarters as Additional Director General Local Government Elections - a development that indicates that Afridi's removal is linked to ECP's preparations for LG polls in Sindh.

Joint Provincial Election Commissioner, Sindh, Farid Afridi was also removed from his position and directed to report to the ECP headquarters. On August 31, 2020, the Sindh government formally issued a notification announcing the dissolution of all the elected LG offices in the province on the completion of their four-year term a day earlier. Following this development, the ECP, on the same date, issued the schedule for the delimitation of constituencies ahead of LG elections in Sindh but the PPP and Sindh government have rejected the ECP's delimitation plan.

Constitutionally, the ECP is bound to hold delimitation of constituencies on the basis of population as per official results of last population census. Article 51 (5) reads, "The seats in the National Assembly shall be allocated to each province and the Federal Capital on the basis of population in accordance with the last preceding census officially published: Provided that for purposes of the next general elections to be held in 2018 and bye-elections related thereto, the allocation shall be made on the basis of provisional results of the 2017 census which shall be published by the Federal Government."

According to ECP's delimitation schedule for Sindh, the publication of the preliminary list of constituencies for inviting representations and objections would be on September 23; whereas, the filing of representations and objections before the delimitation authorities by the voters concerned would take place between September 23 and October 7.

The disposal of representations and objections by the delimitation authorities would happen in the next 15 days until October 22. The last date for the communication of decisions of the delimitation authorities to the delimitation committees would be October 29, while the final publication of the list of constituencies by the delimitation committees would take place on October 30, 2020.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020

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