Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Business Recorder Editorial Nov 1, 2017

Welcome maturity A meeting of the heads of parliamentary parties chaired by Speaker National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq has shown a welcome maturity in forging a consensus on retaining the same number of seats for the National and provincial Assemblies while reallocating some seats amongst the provinces based on the provisional results of Census 2017. This has paved the way for the quick passage of the constitutional amendment required for this purpose and ensured that the controversy that emerged of late regarding these provisional results of Census 2017 does not become an impediment in holding the general elections 2018 on time. The Election Commission of Pakistan has extended its deadline for the passage of this constitutional amendment by one week to November 10, 2017, a concession that takes nothing away from the Election Commission’s concern regarding the quantum of work it has to complete before the elections can be held. This work includes delimiting the constituencies anew in the light of the provisional results of Census 2017 while taking into account the reallocation of seats amongst the provinces accordingly, followed by a revision of the electoral rolls. Neither task is easy or quick. The deadline if the elections are to be held within the 60 days constitutionally laid down after the expiry of the present assemblies on June 5, 2018 looms. The display of maturity exhibited by the leaderships of the parliamentary parties has prevented any uncertainty, instability or possible crisis inherent in any delay in the elections and may have helped scotch all the talk about replacing the present setup with a technocratic government. Punjab is to be commended for accepting the reduction of its National Assembly seats by nine, of which seven are general and two reserved seats. Given the PML-N’s stakes in ensuring elections on time, this generosity is underpinned by its political interests. There were some reservations and dissenting notes expressed in the meeting. The MQM-P wanted the delimitation of constituencies on the basis of voters rather than people in the constituency, informed by its reservations about what it considers a low count of the population of Karachi, its main political base. The PPP joined the MQM-P in asserting that if their reservations about the provisional results of Census 2017 are not addressed, they will approach the courts for legal redress. The Statistics Division on the other hand told the meeting that there would be no major changes between the provisional and final results of the census. The arithmetic of seats reallocation for the National Assembly has worked against the biggest-by-population province Punjab since it seems its population grew less than other provinces. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will see an increase of five National Assembly seats, four general and one reserved. Balochistan will get three additional National Assembly seats, two general and one women’s reserved seat. This may not satisfy the province entirely since its vast area and scattered population translates into huge territorial constituencies, but it is good to see that the consensus has been accepted for elections 2018. Balochistan’s special problem in this regard it seems has been deferred for future discussion. Islamabad Capital Territory gets one more general National Assembly seat while FATA will retain its 12 seats. There is no change in Sindh’s seats allocation. Parliamentary parties’ heads are to meet on November 2, 2017 to have the details of the census down to tehsil level placed before them for scrutiny. This had been the demand of some provinces, especially Sindh. It is heartening to note that the political class as a whole has risen above partisan considerations in the interests of the smooth and timely holding of elections 2018.

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