Will election be held on time? CCI meets to discuss 2023 census

Ayaz Akbar Yousafzai
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. — PMO
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. — PMO

  • If new census is notified, ECP bound to hold polls on new data.
  • PPP wants polls soon; MQM-P wants new data to be considered.
  • "No harm delaying if results acceptable to all," says Talal Chaudhry.

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is chairing a meeting of the Council of Common Interest (CCI) convened to decide the fate of the 2023 census, amid division among the coalition partners over the matter.

According to sources, the all-important meeting of the council is attended by all the chief ministers and senior members of the federal cabinet.

The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) has reportedly informed the federal government that it had completed all the formalities, and the results of the census can be taken up for CCI’s approval.

If the CCI approves the census results, elections are likely to be delayed by a couple of months as the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) would need additional time to conduct the delimitation exercise afresh.

Under the law, if a new census is notified, the ECP is bound to hold elections on the basis of new data.

It is important to note that the ruling coalition has agreed to dissolve the National Assembly prematurely on August 9 — three days before its term ends — giving the electoral body 90 days to conduct polls.

PPP, MQM-P divided

Meanwhile, the two main coalition partners of PM Shehbaz Sharif — Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) and Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) have opposite views on the enumeration.

The PPP has on multiple occasions said that polls should be held on the basis of the 2017 census, reiterating that any delay in polls will not be accepted.

On Friday, while speaking on the floor of the Senate, Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman said that the census issue was controversial and would open up a new Pandora’s box of delimitation of constituencies.

“This issue could be used to delay the election. We don’t want elections to be delayed, rather it should be held on time and under the Constitution,” she maintained.

On the other hand, MQM-P has shared its concerns on the matter with the prime minister, stressing that elections on the previous enumeration would not be acceptable.

PML-N ‘ready’ to address concerns

Moreover, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Talal Chaudhry told Geo News that there’s no harm in delaying polls as it is more important that the election results are acceptable to everyone.

‘Polls may be delayed by 4 months’

Talking to Geo News on Friday, former secretary ECP Kanwar Dilshad said that if the CCI approves the census 2023, elections will be held in 2024.

“If the gazette notification of the new digital census is issued on the recommendations of the CCI, then the ECP is legally bound under Article 51(5) of the Constitution to conduct fresh delimitation,” he said.