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Will elections be held in Oct-Nov this year?

ISLAMABAD: The MQM, which is part of the ruling PDM coalition, has tasked its legal minds to advise whether next general elections could be held on the basis of past population census when the process for the fresh census has almost completed.

Federal minister and MQM leader Syed Faisal Ali Subzwari when approached, told The News that Muttahida’s position has always been that elections should be held on the basis of correct latest counting of the population.

He said that the MQM has approached its legal and constitutional experts to get their advice for the party leadership whether the elections could be held on the basis of the 2017 census when the process for the new census has almost completed.

If the government decides to hold elections on the basis of a new population census, there will be a consequent constitutional and legal requirement of delimitation of constituencies. The process of delimitation of constituencies is a few months long project to be done by the Election Commission of Pakistan.

Interestingly, the PMLN leaders in the past were also heard talking about next general elections on the basis of a new population census.

In January this year, the PMLN leader and Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal had asserted that the general elections in Pakistan are only possible after the population census and consequent delimitation of the constituencies.

“Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan himself had decided in the April 2021, meeting of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) that the new elections would be held only after the process of population census,” Iqbal was quoted by the media as saying.

Talking to the media after the inauguration of the Science and Technology Park at Mehran University of Engineering and Technology (MUET) Jamshoro district in January this year, Iqbal had said that the census results would be published by April 30, following which the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) would start the delimitation exercise which will take up to four months to be completed.

As against the expectation of Ahsan Iqbal, the census result has not yet been published because of controversies raising questions over the correctness of the headcount.

Now the PMLN and PPP talk about the holding of general elections in October or November this year.

The prime minister has also said that next month the government will complete its tenure and the country would move for general elections in October or November.

There are apprehensions and analysis being discussed in politics and media about the possibility of delay in the next general elections. In case the new census is finalised or nearing its completion, it would become a cause to delay the general elections.

A recent new report by The News journalist Mumtaz Alvi said that the country’s first-ever digital census began in March this year; however, there is uncertainty about its official date of publishing, pending completion of formalities.

The report while quoting a senior official of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) said that he hardly saw any chance of elections being held on time, i.e. in the first week of October and before the 12th of that month, if those were to be held on the basis of demarcation of the constituencies as per the digital census.

According to the report, the delimitation exercise needs four months, and even if the time is squeezed to a minimum of three months, chances of elections conducted on the basis of fresh delimitation are very slim.

Seats in the National Assembly are allocated to each province and federal territory on the basis of the population under Article-51(3) of the Constitution in accordance with the last census, officially published. “Therefore, in the given circumstances and as things appear, he added, the commission would be left with no other option but to conduct the upcoming general elections on the basis of the last delimitation,” the report said.

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