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Pakistan Reader# 641, 12 August 2023

On delimitation: Issues and challenges for Pakistan



The dilemma is whether entities will facilitate a fair census or continue to pursue their existing political goals.

Genesy Balasingam

The recent dissolution of the National Assembly and the constitutional requirement entailing delimitation of constituencies has led to speculation about whether elections would be held at all in the foreseeable future.  
 
The fresh delimitation process has stirred various controversies in the nation. The two main coalition partners of PM Shehbaz Sharif - PPP and MQM
 hold opposite views on the enumeration. The PPP has on multiple occasions advocated that polls should be held based on the 2017 census, reiterating that any delay in polls will not be accepted while MQM-P has stressed that elections on the previous enumeration would not be acceptable. 
 
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf members have criticised the new delimitation of constituencies and blamed the outgoing government for giving extraordinary powers to the caretaker government beyond their usual remit of conducting polls therefore increasing the chances of unconstitutional functioning in various constituencies. Critics question whether the government purposely delayed signing off on the findings until the conclusion of the assembly's term to purchase more time for an economic rebound. If elections are held in the coming months, there is a strong likelihood that parties would not receive votes, resulting in increased political instability in the region amid high inflation and diminishing foreign reserves. More time would aid them in gaining votes in the upcoming general elections.
 
Digital census is triggering resentment in few as it might possibly end up on shelves and the graveyard of cyber data. Population is the sole criterion for the horizontal distribution of finances. Every year, Pakistan adds between four and five million people to its population. Despite protracted periods of sluggish economic growth and many natural calamities, steady population increase has overshadowed little economic achievements.
  
Members of the Balochistan Assembly are concerned about the formation of divisions and demonstrations between communities and tribes as a result of the delimitation of national and provincial assembly constituencies in quest of accurate representation and resource allocation among them. One of the most serious issues is the seeming indifference or rejection of minorities, which has an impact on the allocation and access to fair representation, power, assets, and basic rights.
 
The new delimitation is beyond political agendas for the people of Pakistan in the midst of political and economic uncertainty. Political parties have used this technique to acquire momentum and influence in the next elections. The dilemma is whether entities will facilitate a fair census or continue to pursue their existing political goals. (Iftikhar A. Khan, “Delimitation to have little impact on NA seats,” Dawn, 11 August 2023)

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