News Analysis |
The government in Pakistan has decided to reallocate seats in the National and provincial assemblies after receiving the provisional results of the census held in 2017. Pakistan has, according to the census results, experienced a significant level of growth in population. Therefore, it becomes a constitutional responsibility of the government to ensure the (re)allocation of seats in National and provincial assemblies on the basis of (increased) population.
On November 1, a draft of the Constitutional Amendment Bill for fresh delimitations and constituencies was finalized by the Parliamentary leaders in the National Assembly. The Bill announced by the Speaker National Assembly Ayaz Sadiq, was drafted on the basis of the provisional results of the census. All parties agreed upon the drafted bill for fresh delimitation, he added.
According to the draft of the bill, it was agreed that the seats of the National Assembly will remain 272. But owing to a decrease in the share of the total population, Punjab will lose 9 seats in the National Assembly. Of them, five will go to the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, three to Balochistan and one to the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), while the seats of Sindh and FATA will remain unchanged.
The PTI believes to win the upcoming elections due to the prevailing unpopularity of the PML-N.
But soon after the Bill was presented to the National Assembly the ruling party had to face difficulty for not being able to have two-thirds majority (228) due to the changing attitude of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). The PPP and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) earlier agreed upon the substance of the bill, but, later on, backtracked on support for delimitation of constituencies for two obvious reasons. The PPP wants the government to bring the bill to the Council of Common Interests for a comprehensive debate. The MQM has reservations over the results of the Census, 2017 and it wants the attention of the Federal Government.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) spokesman Fawad Chaudhry has made it clear that his party won’t support the Bill for fresh delimitations at the cost of delay in elections. “The bill should be considered and focused … as the PTI is not in favour of its immediate approval,” the Spokesman suggested. Mr. Chaudhary urged the government and opposition to reach a ‘national consensus and has also proposed to dissolve the KPK assembly where his party is in power, to hold early elections. The PTI is of the opinion that any delay in the upcoming elections should not be tolerated at any cost.
Pakistan Muslim League-N is the staunchest supporter of the fresh delimitations, argue its critics, for its vested political interests.
The leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah has also suggested the government to hold next elections on the basis of old census figures. He has also warned the government by clarifying that his party (PPP) won’t support the bill for fresh delimitations unless the reservations of Sindh regarding the Census results are appropriately addressed.
The government is, however, not willing to consider any of the suggestions. Federal Minister Ahsan Iqbal has termed the stance of the PTI leadership as “undemocratic”. The Minister emphasized on the completion of the tenure of the assembly for the continuation of democracy in the country.
Read more: Questioning the merger of FATA with KPK
Pakistan Muslim League-N is the staunchest supporter of the fresh delimitations, argue its critics, for its vested political interests. From the Panama Papers saga to the present-day political challenges the party has significantly lost its vote bank particularly in Lahore. A not-so-impressive victory in a by-election of NA 120 has pushed the party into troubled waters. Signs of internal disorganization have also compelled the party to buy some (extra) time to reorganize itself in order to compete with the PTI in Punjab.
The government in Pakistan has decided to reallocate seats in the National and provincial assemblies after receiving the provisional results of the census held in 2017.
Fresh delimitations will help the PML-N to delay the upcoming elections. The party hopes to regain momentum meanwhile to stay in power—at least in Lahore.
The insistence of the PTI to hold elections is, analysts opine, based upon its assumption of mobilizing the masses against the ruling party after the Supreme Court disqualified the prime minister over corruption charges. The PTI believes it will win the upcoming elections due to the prevailing unpopularity of the PML-N.
The government, on the contrary, is committed to passé the Constitutional Amendment Bill for fresh delimitations in the country.