Delay In Elections? CCI Meeting To Decide Matter This Week

Delay In Elections? CCI Meeting To Decide Matter This Week
With the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) appearing to be split on whether to hold the next elections per the recently-held digital census or the 2017 census, a key meeting of the Council of Common Interests is set to deliberate and decide on the matter. In turn, a decision by the council will be decisive on whether general elections are held on time or are delayed.

The last meeting of the Council of Common Interest during the tenure of the incumbent coalition government is scheduled to be held this week.

During the meeting, the council is expected to take up a proposal by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) to approve the recently held digital population census if the chief ministers of all the provinces consented to it, background discussions with the senior politicians suggested.

Should the council ratify it, the Election Commission of Pakistan would have to delimit constituencies according to the new census, and this could delay the next elections past the maximum 90-day period (should the assemblies be dissolved before their natural term) due to various technical reasons, well-placed sources have told The Friday Times.

A meeting of the CCI was expected to be held last month on July 25, but for varying reasons, the meeting could not materialize.

Sources believe that the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, which conducted the population census, has informed the Planning Ministry that the enumeration exercise is complete.

However, the approval of the census would bind the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to undergo the lengthy exercise of constituency delimitation, which will delay the polls.

According to the Constitution, after the digital census is approved, the next elections must be held on the latest published census.

Article 51(3) of the 1973 Constitution states, "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."


Meanwhile, a split is seen within the ruling PML-N.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has twice shared with the media that the upcoming elections will be held on the basis of the digital census held this year.

However, he has clarified that it remains the prerogative of the CCI to first approve its results.

At the same time, Federal Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal and Federal Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah have stated on separate occasions that the next elections will be held on the census confirmed in 2017.

Other reasons for delays in polls

Some other reasons suggested that could lead to a possible delay in the polls are the law and order situation of the country.

With an attack on a political event held by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) in Bajaur on Sunday, leaving at least 50 dead and over 100 injured, there are strong reservations over security during the upcoming elections.

If the election commission fails to secure security clearance from the interior ministry, the polls cannot be held.

The country's economic situation could also be a possible reason for the delay in elections.

After former prime minister Imran Khan had dissolved the assemblies in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa earlier this year, elections could not be held after the government stated they could not provide the requisite funds to hold the polls.

It is pertinent to note at this juncture that constitutionally, the burden of deciding an electoral schedule is on the ECP.

It remains to be seen now what happens in the CCI meeting. It will be a first real indicator of when the next elections will be held.