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It will take more than five months to hold elections on 2023 census: law minister



Federal Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar addressing a press conference on June 22, 2022. — APP
  • Upcoming elections will be held in Jan-Feb 2024, says law minister.
  • Provinces’ share in the general seats of NA will not change in next elections, he says.
  • ECP is bound to complete the delimitation process within 120 days, says the minister.

Federal Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar on Saturday revealed that it will take more than five months to hold elections on the basis of the 2023 digital census.

Talking to Geo News, Tarar said that a meeting of the Council of Common Interest (CCI) headed by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif “unanimously” confirmed the 2023 census results.

As per Article 51 of the Constitution, the general elections for the national and provincial assemblies will be conducted as per the limits of the constituencies published by the Commission, he added.

The law minister said that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is to complete the delimitation process within an outer limit 120 days. However, it is the prerogative of the ECP as when they start the process.

He maintained that the census 2023 results show that provinces’ share in the general seats of the National Assembly will not change in the next elections.

The outer limit of 120 days can be reduced by effective work, the law minister said, adding that 54 more days are required for the general elections.

The entire process should not go beyond 150 to 165 days, he clarified.

The law minister said that all eight members of the CCI agreed on holding the upcoming elections on the basis of Census 2023.

PM Shehbaz Sharif, all four chief ministers and other members of the body were among the attendees of the meeting, he added. 

CCI “unanimously” approves 2023 census

Earlier today, the Council of Common Interest (CCI) meeting “unanimously” approved the 2023 census.

PM Shehbaz Sharif chaired a meeting of the CCI to decide the fate of the 2023 census amid reports of division among the coalition partners over the matter.

The meeting was attended by Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and Punjab Caretaker Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi, according to sources.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Aviation Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique, Commerce Minister Syed Naveed Qamar, Adviser to the PM on Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit Baltistan Qamar Zaman Kaira and other officials also participated in the huddle.

According to the sources, the Ministry of Planning briefed the participants on the digital census. Moreover, the results of 2023 census were also presented during the CCI meeting.

The meeting was also briefed that Pakistan’s population has reached 240.10 million.

The insiders said the CCI huddle unanimously approved the latest digital census despite the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), a key ally of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM)-led government, had publicly expressed reservations over it.

The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) also reportedly informed the federal government that it had completed all the formalities.

The general elections are likely to be delayed by a couple of months as the 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 PPP had 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.

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 added.

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