Electoral uncertainty . .

               Clock is ticking towards the end of constitutional terms of current legislative assemblies; a cloud of uncertainty hovers over the political landscape of the nation, as the chronometer beats towards the scheduled general elections. Recently the assessments made by the Council of Common Interests the CCI have cast doubt on the timely conduct of the elections, raising the possibility of a significant delay that could extend well into spring 2024. The boulevard to polls uncertainty may seem daunting, but it is through the collective effort of the government, election commission, and the citizens that we can overcome these challenges and emerge stronger as a nation. Let us hope that wisdom prevails and that our democratic principles guide us toward a future defined by transparency, inclusivity, and the true spirit of democracy.

               According to Section 17 -1 of the Elections Act, the commission must delimit territorial constituencies for the National Assembly, Provincial Assemblies, and local governments after each officially published census. This implies that the entire exercise, including updating electoral rolls and other related steps, may now be postponed until March or April of the following year. Such a delay in the electoral process would have far reaching consequences, as it would extend the term of the incoming caretaker government at the federal and provincial levels. With uncertainty looming, the corridors of power face the possibility of prolonged interim administrations in key regions of the country.

               The unfolding drama begins with the shifting positions of both the ruling PML-N led federal government and the Election Commission of Pakistan ECP on the matter of fresh delimitation. The CCI’s approval of the final census results has now legally bound the ECP to undertake the arduous task of redrawing electoral boundaries, a process that is estimated to take at least four months. This unsettling turn of events contradicts earlier assurances from federal ministers and ECP officials who had vehemently denied any delay in the electoral process. In fact, just last month, they had confidently claimed that polls would be held on time, even without the notification of official census results.

               In these wearisome times, it falls upon the national leadership to coxswain through the complexities, uphold democratic values, and ensure that the will of the people remains at the heart of any decisions made. As citizens, we must be vigilant and engaged, holding our elected representatives accountable for safeguarding the democratic fabric of our nation. This confluence of events poses a formidable challenge to the seamless functioning of democratic processes. The nation now stands at a critical juncture where the possibility of delayed elections and the need for constitutional amendments intertwine; creating an intricate web of uncertainties that must be navigated with utmost prudence.

               The situation is further compounded by legal complexities. Article 51(3) of the Constitution allocates seats in the National Assembly to each province and federal territory based on their population as per the last officially published census. Any modifications to this composition due to fresh delimitation would necessitate a constitutional amendment—a process that requires a quorum of at least 228 members in the National Assembly. Unfortunately, the incumbent assembly, bereft of PTI lawmakers, falls short of that number.

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