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ISLAMABAD: What appears to be a vivid indication that the general elections would not be held in the country before next year, within the constitutionally-stipulated time period, the electoral body has announced launching of fresh delimitation of constituencies in accordance with the recently-notified results of digital population census 2023 that is scheduled to end in the mid of December.

According to a directive issued by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday, the limits of the revenue units (across the country) stood frozen from Thursday, August 17, and there shall be no change in the limits of the revenue units till the completion of the delimitation process. The final publication of delimitation results is scheduled on December 14, the directive stated.

This indicates that the general elections may not be held before March next year—and that too in case ECP proceeds to hold preparations for general elections in 90 days — immediately after the completion of the delimitation exercise.

Delimitation: CJP asks ECP to carry out process in transparent manner

Through the directive, the commission has directed the provinces, Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) and Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) to ensure the provision of required documents/information related to delimitation drive.

The directive stated that in terms of Article 51, read with Section 17 of the Elections Act 2017, it was the legal obligation of the ECP to carry out fresh delimitation of constituencies after the publication of official results of census.

Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja and the four ECP Members; Nisar Ahmed Durrani, Shah Muhammad Jatoi, Babar Hassan Bharwana and Justice ® Ikram Ullah Khan issued the directive. The National Assembly was dissolved on this month’s 9th—a scenario which implies that the general elections are required to be held not later than November 7 this year, within the 90-day period mandated by the constitution.

Article 224(2) provides that when the NA or a provincial assembly is dissolved, a general election to the assembly shall be held within a period of 90 days after the dissolution, and the results of the election shall be declared not later than 14 days after the conclusion of the polls.

The general elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are already witnessing inordinate delay – keeping in view that both the provincial legislatures were dissolved in January this year and respective caretaker governments are since running the affairs of the two provinces.

The official results of the digital population census were notified by the former federal government on this month’s 7th.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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