- If new census is notified, ECP bound to hold polls on new data.
- PPP wants early polls; MQM-P wants new census.
- “Delay okay if results accepted,” says Talal Chaudhry.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is leading a meeting of the Council of Common Interest (CCI) to decide the fate of the 2023 census, which has caused divisions among the coalition partners.
The CCI meeting has gathered all the chief ministers and senior members of the federal cabinet to discuss the crucial matter. The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) has reportedly informed the federal government that all necessary formalities for the census have been completed, and the results are now ready for CCI’s approval.
If the CCI gives the green light to the census results, the upcoming elections are likely to face a delay of a few months. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) will require extra time to conduct a fresh delimitation exercise based on the new census data, as mandated by the law.
It is important to note that the ruling coalition has agreed to dissolve the National Assembly prematurely on August 9, providing the electoral body with 90 days to hold the polls.
The two major coalition partners of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) and the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP), hold opposing views on the census issue. The PPP has consistently advocated for holding the elections based on the 2017 census, emphasizing that any delay will not be acceptable.
Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman expressed concerns about the census issue, fearing that it might lead to delays in elections. She emphasized the importance of holding the elections on time and in accordance with the Constitution.
On the other hand, the MQM-P has conveyed its reservations about conducting elections based on the previous enumeration, demanding that the new census be used for electoral purposes.
In response to the differing opinions, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Talal Chaudhry stated that there is no harm in delaying the polls. He stressed that it is crucial for the election results to be acceptable to all parties involved.
Former ECP secretary Kanwar Dilshad revealed that if the CCI approves the 2023 census, the elections will likely be held in 2024. He explained that under Article 51(5) of the Constitution, the ECP is legally bound to conduct fresh delimitation if the new digital census is officially notified.
As the CCI deliberates over the fate of the census, the decision will have significant implications for the timing of the 2023 elections. The coalition partners’ differing stances underscore the importance of reaching a consensus to ensure a smooth and transparent electoral process.