The following mention appeared in Express Turbine on Oct 18, 2023, at the following link
While the apex electoral body of the country has announced its intent to conduct elections sometime towards the end of January, many are unhappy with the timeline and the manner with which pre-election formalities like delimitations have panned out.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), which is responsible for conducting elections in the country, is also in charge of determining electoral boundaries – a process known as delimitation. This process decides the number of seats that a province will have in the National Assembly (NA); or simply put, delimitation decides how many people will represent a province in the lower house of the Parliament.
And the delimitation for Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) has not only surprised political stakeholders but has also angered them.
As per the new electoral boundaries laid out by the ECP, K-P’s merged districts, formerly known as Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), will now have 6 fewer representatives in the NA. To illustrate further: Bajaur District which had two NA seats, NA-40 and NA-41, has seen its constituencies merged and now will have one seat, NA-8. Similarly, Khyber District’s NA-43 and NA-44 seats have been merged into one seat, NA-27; and Kurram District’s NA-45 and NA-46, have made way for NA-36.
Sardar Hussain Babak, of the Awami National Party (ANP), has termed the delimitations as a robbery of the rights of the people of K-P.
“By depriving the people of this province of 6 seats, the ECP has not only jeopardised K-P’s share in the National Finance Commission (NFC) Award but also stifled the voices of many by taking away their representation in Parliament,” remarked Babak, further adding that the rights of Pushtoons residing in merged districts were being targeted unfairly.
“The people of the merged districts have made so many sacrifices for this country in the past few decades and the ECP has repaid them by taking away their voices in the NA,” he added.
The Governor of K-P, Haji Ghulam Ali, also criticised the delimitations done by the ECP albeit on different grounds than Babak. “Our party, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazal (JUI-F), has always maintained that merging FATA with K-P would deprive the people of the merged districts from their rights and the delimitation process has vindicated us,” asserted the Governor.
Nevertheless, Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, President of the Pakistan Institute of Legislative. Development And Transparency (PILDAT), believes that the delimitations have been done in line with the headcount of the province. “If the population of a province has increased, its representation in the NA has also increased. If the population of the merged districts has decreased since the last delimitation, then their representation has also decreased.”
“To taint the process by claiming representation was decreased on the basis of ethnicity is wrong,” said Mehboob.
Sohail Khan, the Public Relations Officer of the ECP, was also asked about the reservations of political stakeholders regarding the delimitation process. “If anyone or any party has complaints regarding the delimitation process, they can formally file one up until the 26th of October, after which a final decision will be taken on the 26th of November,” informed Khan while talking to The Express Tribune.