The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday all but ruled out holding elections before December 14, 2023 while it committed to conducting fresh delimitations following the Digital Census 2023 approved by the Council of Common Interests (CCI) earlier this month.
The apex poll body on Thursday issued a schedule for the delimitation of constituencies. The schedule showed that it would take the commission four months to complete the delimitation exercise and that polls could only be held once it was complete.
A statement issued by the ECP alongside the schedule stated that since the official results of the seventh Population and Housing 'Digital' Census 2023, 'has been published by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics on August 7, 2023, Article 51 of the Constitution, read along with section 17 of the Elections Act, 2017, the body was legally obligated "to carry out fresh delimitation of Constituencies after the publication of official results of the census."
To accomplish this massive task, ECP stated that it would be "expedient to ensure that all those in the service of Pakistan shall assist Election Commission of Pakistan under Article 220 of the Constitution so that the elections are held as enshrined in Article 218 (3) of the Constitution."
Per the schedule, the delimitation process will formally commence on Monday, August 21, 2023.
Preliminary constituency delimitation boundaries will be published by October 9, and the ECP will accept representations against them until November 11.
These representations will be addressed and disposed of by December 8, 2023.
The final delimitations will be published by December 14, 2023.
ECP seeks data
As part of the schedule, the ECP exercised powers under Article 218(3) and Article 220 of the Constitution, read with section-4 of the Elections Act, 2017, it froze all revenue units.
"There shall be no change in the limits of the Revenue Units till the completion of the delimitation process," read the schedule. Boundaries of administrative units across the country were also frozen.
Provincial governments, including the Islamabad Capital Territory and Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, were directed to ensure that the ECP is provided with all information and documents required by the commission in coordination with the provincial election commissioners, the notification of census charges, census circles and census blocks.
Further, the ECP sought hard and soft copies of maps concerning census charges, census circles and census blocks, along with descriptions.
Copies of the consolidated master maps of urban areas showing therein census charges, circles, and blocks in metropolitan corporations, municipal corporations, municipal committees and town committees. These maps, the ECP said, must tally with revenue records.
List of revenue units such as Mouza or Deh, Patwar Circle, Tapedar Circle, Qanungo, Supervisory, Tapedar, Tehsil, and Taluka of rural areas, authenticated by revenue authority with notified Revenue units.
The ECP also sought the latest district maps in hard and soft form duly authenticated by the revenue authority according to the results of the population census in digital form or on tracing cloth/paper immediately.
Notified updated changes undertaken after the census may also be incorporated in the maps.
Natural physical features such as rivers, canals, mountains, hills, metal roads, railway lines and bridges shall also be clearly marked on the maps.