Friday, December 16, 2022

Polls on time linked to 'availability of census result by March 31'

As per initial plan, PBS had to provide the provisional results of the census till Dec 31 to ECP, says official

The board outside the premises of the Election Commission of Pakistan. — ECP website/File
The board outside the premises of the Election Commission of Pakistan. — ECP website/File

  • ECP informs planning ministry of issues regarding conduct of polls.
  • It says PBS had to provide census results by December 31.
  • PBS has informed that it will be able to provide data by April 30.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Friday expressed its inability to conduct general elections as per the schedule if the final results of the seventh census are not provided to the body by March 31, 2023.

In a letter to the Ministry of Planning, Development, and Special Initiatives secretary, ECP Special Secretary Zafar Iqbal Hussain wrote: "It would be difficult for the ECP to undertake the exercise of fresh delimitation of constituencies as per Article 51(5) of the Constitution, complete other electoral activities mentioned above and conduct of General Election-2023 in time as per Constitutional mandate in case official results are not provided on or before March 31, 2023.”

He maintained that a meeting between the chief election commissioner and chief statistician was held on December 8, wherein the latter informed the former that the Council of Common Interests approved the timelines for the conduct of the seventh Population and Housing Census “digitally” in its 49th session.

As per the initial plan, the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) had to provide the provisional results of the census by December 31, 2022, to the ECP, read the letter.

“In the meeting, PBS took the stance that initially PBS engaged NRTC for provision of software, hardware and allied services, however, NRTC pulled out and showed an inability to provide the services resultantly four months delay occurred,” said the special secretary.

Afterwards, NADRA was engaged for the above services. Further, the transition of government and the economic situation of the country caused further delays, read the letter.

The commission was informed that as per revised timelines the PBS would be able to provide provisional census results to the ECP by April 30, 2023.

During the meeting, the PBS has been informed that the ECP time and again took the matter with the ministry of planning and other concerned authorities with the request that the final results of the census be published by December 31 to enable the commission to complete key electoral activities for the conduct of the general election.

Federal Minister for Planning, Development, and Special Initiatives Ahsan Iqbal had also last month ruled out the possibility of general elections in Pakistan before August 2023.

"As far as elections are concerned, even PTI knows that early elections aren't possible in the country as it will take around 6-8 months for rehabilitation works to complete in Sindh and Balochistan — the provinces hit hard by floods," the minister said while speaking on Geo News' programme "Naya Pakistan".

"Also, in March or April, the results of the new census will be released. The Sindh government and the [people of the] province have a clear stance: next elections will be held on the basis of the new census."

In case the new census is out by March or April, then the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) will take at least four to five months for delimitation and the country will ultimately move towards polls in August.

"This is an administrative and natural timetable that might not change," the minister said as he strongly opposed holding country-wide elections.