National Assembly panel set up to examine delimitation

ISLAMABAD: Speaker of the National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq on Tuesday set up an eight-member committee of parliamentarians to examine the draft proposals for delimitation as well as objections to them after a federal minister blamed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for deviating from the Constitution in formulating the same.

The special committee comprises two members of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and one each from the Pakistan Peoples Party, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan, Jamaat-i-Islami, PML-Functional and the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazlur Rehman.

Directed to submit its report within a week, the parliamentarians — PML-N’s Zahid Hamid and Daniyal Aziz, PPP’s Syed Naveed Qamar, PTI’s Arif Alvi, MQM’s S.A. Iqbal Qadri, JI’s Sahibzada Tariqullah, PML-F’s Ghous Bux Khan Mahar and JUI-F’s Naeema Kishwar Khan — will hold their first meeting today (Wednesday).

Eight-member committee to check ‘discrepancies’ in new constituencies

Earlier, Federal Minister for Priva­tisation Daniyal Aziz told the National Assembly session that the ECP’s notification of draft proposals on delimitation on its website conceded that it was not done on the basis of population. This was a violation of Article 51(5) of the Constitution, he said, demanding that it must be checked immediately as the flaws if not timely addressed could delay the general election.

Another federal minister, retired Lt Gen Abdul Qadir Baloch, later tabled a motion seeking the formation of a committee for this purpose.

The motion, which also proposed the names of the committee members, authorised the speaker to make any changes in its composition and to allow any other member to attend its meeting. The motion was adopted by the House.

According to the draft proposals finalised by the ECP for delimitation of constituencies of the national and provincial assemblies for the upcoming general election, there are more than 30 unusually large and small constituencies in terms of population.

While the average population per constituency calculated on the basis of the last year census findings in the country, excluding the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), comes to 779,886, a careful analysis of the data released by the ECP in its report shows there are seven constituencies with more than a million population and 23 other constituencies having population of over 900,000.

These unusually large and small constituencies are present in all the provinces: 10 in Punjab, nine in Sindh, eight in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and four in Balochistan.

When contacted, a senior ECP official claimed that the exercise this time had been carried out in the most transparent manner as no violation of the Constitution had been committed.

The official said while drawing the constituencies, district had been taken as a basic territorial unit. He admitted there would be a few very large constituencies because of the ECP’s effort to avoid overlapping of districts. “Had we not done so, there was a possibility that some parts of Attock would have to be made part of Chakwal or some areas of Rawalpindi would have to be merged in Jhelum,” he reasoned.

About the discrepancies in the national assembly constituencies in Balochistan, the ECP official said they had kept ‘some other factors’ in mind too after observing that candidates in the past used to get the required number of votes by visiting only a few localities instead of all areas within their constituency. He cited the example of NA-259 Dera Bugti-Kohlu-Barkhan-Sibbi-Lehri and said the candidates belonging to Lehri tribe had mostly won the seat without even visiting the far-flung areas in the constituency.

Published in Dawn, March 14th, 2018

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