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Census 2023 results approved at CCI meeting

The ECP will now have to conduct a fresh delimitation of constituencies, leading to a potential delay in the elections.

Islamabad, 5 Aug, 2023 (GNP): The Council of Common Interests (CCI) has unanimously approved the results of the 2023 digital census, as announced by Law Minister Azam Nazeer on Saturday. The decision comes after a CCI meeting held in Islamabad, where the results of the new census were given a unanimous nod.

The approval of the census results has significant implications for the upcoming general elections scheduled later this year. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has expressed its inability to hold the polls on the basis of the latest census results within the stipulated time. The electoral watchdog will now have to conduct a fresh delimitation of constituencies, leading to a potential delay in the elections.

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), two of the government’s allies in the Centre, have expressed reservations about the new census. PPP senators in the upper house of Parliament termed the decision to hold elections based on the new census as a tactic to delay the polls.

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While defending the government’s decision, Law Minister Azam Nazeer cited Article 51 of the Constitution, which mandates the allocation of National Assembly (NA) seats to administrative units based on the population according to the last preceding census officially published. The 2023 census was conducted in response to reservations raised by provinces about the accuracy of the 2017 census.

The law minister said the responsibility now lies with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to initiate and complete the delimitation of constituencies based on the new population count. The ECP has an outer limit of 120 days to carry out this process, he added.

Furthermore, the law minister expressed optimism that if the delimitation is conducted efficiently, the polls may be delayed for a maximum of two to two and a half months.

Regarding the caretaker setup, the law minister clarified that no legal or constitutional cover would be required in case of an extended-term due to the election delay.

The new population count resulting from the 2023 census is not expected to alter the distribution of seats among administrative units in the National Assembly. The distribution will remain unchanged as the initial census results were reviewed and revised following a scientific audit.

Also Read: First-ever digital census of Pakistan started

The 2023 census was initiated after serious objections were raised by both the government of Sindh, led by the PPP, and the MQM-P regarding the undercounting of Sindh’s population in the 2017 census. The Seventh Population and Housing Census commenced on 1 March and concluded on 15 May, following five deadline extensions.

Pakistan’s population has increased to 241.49 million, with an annual growth rate of 2.55%, according to 2023 census results presented in the meeting today.

The percentage of the country’s rural population is 61.18% while urban is 38.82%.

As the situation unfolds, the government will closely monitor the developments, and further announcements will be made in due course.