ISLAMABAD: In case of a delay in the next year general elections owing to the census-related complications that the legislature has failed to address so far, there is no constitutional solution available to decide whether to extend the tenure of the present parliament or that of the caretaker government.
ECP sources told The News that the census result is bound to delay the next year elections if the proposed constitutional solution pending before parliament is not approved at the earliest.
In such a scenario, these sources said, the Supreme Court will only decide whether to extend the term of the present government and parliament or that of the caretaker government which otherwise will take over upon the completion of the present government’s term.
These sources said that never before the country or the ECP had confronted the situation where the census was held so close to the next general elections. It is said that the Constitution does not hold any answer to such a situation where the elections are to be delayed for want of delimitation and re-allocation of NA seats to the provinces on the basis of the last notified census.
While the ECP is really worried with the emerging situation, the government and the opposition, particularly the PPP, appears divided on the issue of carrying out the required constitutional amendments for holding the next year elections on time.
The National Assembly has though passed the constitutional amendment, it is not getting through the Senate because of unavailability of the required number (two-thirds majority) of members.
On 29th August, the ECP drew the Law Ministry’s attention to theconstitutional questions raised by the census 2017 vis-a-vis the timely holding of the next year elections.
However, initially the government acted belatedly and later the opposition parties, despite having passed the amendment from the NA, are not showing any keenness for early passage of the constitutional amendment from the Senate.
The Article 51(5) of the Constitution provides that the seats in the National Assembly shall be allocated to each province, the FATA and the Federal Capital on the basis of population in accordance with the last preceding census officially published.
Referring to the same constitutional provision, the CEC had pointed out to the government in August: “In the backdrop of 6th national census, held from March-May 2017, I may state that as per provisional results shared by Pakistan Bureau of Statistics with regard to census, tangible demographic changes have taken place in federating units which might necessitate the enhancement, reallocation of seats in the National Assembly as well as provincial assemblies by the Parliament. In the event of such enhancement, reallocation of seats, the Election Commission of Pakistan has to carry out delimitation in accordance with the provisions of Chapter-III of the Elections Act 2017 (as passed by the National Assembly on 22nd August, 2017). Needless to mention that Section 17(2) requires the Commission to delimit constituencies after every census officially published.”
The CEC had warned: “Keeping in view the importance, magnitude of work and the time period required for completion of different stages of delimitation of constituencies, it is apprehended that in case of delay in official publication of census results, timely completion of delimitation exercise could not be possible. Hence, the Hon’ble Commission has desired me to request you to kindly take all necessary legal, administrative measures for said legislation and early official publication of census results so that the Commission could be able to accomplish its constitutional and legal obligation in time and in an efficient manner.”
Originally published in