As an organization headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court, after Wednesday’s order by the court, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) should get down to verifying the voters’ lists in Karachi, and then proceed to delimiting the constituencies of that city accordingly. The Supreme Court, which heard the case at its Karachi registry, observed that delimitation had nothing to do with a census, while rejecting the ECP’s review petition against its judgement in December which ordered the verification and delimitation. The ECP’s counsel raised the prospect of the delimitation causing a delay in the polls, which caused a member of the bench to observe, “We won’t allow you even in dream to utter a word about delay in elections.” However, it appears that the court will not allow that argument, and that it is unmoved, and wants its original order fulfilled.

Its drawing a distinction between delimitation and a census makes nonsense of the main argument against verification that delimitation would require a fresh census. The argument has been raised by the MQM, which looks upon Karachi as a stronghold, that fresh delimitations require a fresh census. It is to be noted that a census leads to the allocation of seats to a district, not where the constituency is to be demarcated. The Supreme Court has merely ordered the delimitation of the constituencies, not changed their allocation. As for the ECP reluctance, the Supreme Court had taken due notice of the difficulties of that city, so the Court had ordered the ECP to seek the help of the army. The army has expressed its readiness, and thus the ECP’s reluctance to carry out the exercise does not have a justification.

The petition that instigated this, was filed by the late Benazir Bhutto, and the Supreme Court’s decision showed that all was not well in Karachi. However, if the MQM was to stop placing obstacles It must be noted that the MQM is allied to the ruling PPP, and though it has left the Sindh coalition, its Governor remains in office. The PPP must prevail upon its ally not to oppose the Supreme Court order, but to help in its implementation. If the MQM does have support in the city, it should not be so worried about where exactly the lines have been drawn. Its behaviour so far gives rise to the suspicion that the charges of gerrymandering raised had more than a modicum of truth to them.