ISLAMABAD - The parliamentary leaders on Tuesday decided to retain 272 seats of the National Assembly.

The parliamentary leaders’ huddle held with NA Speaker Ayaz Sadiq in the chair agreed on a redistribution of seats among the provinces without increasing or decreasing the total number of seats in the assembly.

The meeting was called on the request of the government to discuss the re-allocation of seats in the National Assembly in accordance with the provisional results of the recent census.

The speaker, while briefing media men, said, the meeting of the parliamentary leaders with Election Commission, Nadra and statistics division, decided to keep the 272 seats of the National Assembly unchanged. He said the change indicated in the census would be addressed by changing allocation to the provinces.

He said delimitation was decided on the basis of population, adding they would get data up to tehsil level tomorrow.

Ayaz Sadiq hoped the bill of delimitation of constituencies would be tabled on Thursday at the National Assembly session.

The speaker said the Election Commission had requested the parliament to consider the issue on priority basis so that general elections could not be delayed on this account.

He said the number of seats for Punjab would decrease, KP and Balochistan would see an increase, while an additional seat would be allocated to Islamabad.

It was decided in the meeting that nine seats of Punjab – seven general and two reserved for women – would be decreased.

However, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa would witness an increase of five seats – four general and one reserved for women.

Balochistan would see an increase of three – two general and one for females. Sindh and Fata seats would remain unchanged, while Islamabad Capital Territory would have one more seat.

The NA speaker affirmed after the National Assembly passed the bill, it would be sent to the Senate.

He pointed out that the decision was taken after realising the time constraints faced by the Election Commission of Pakistan.

Earlier, Election Commission of Pakistan Secretary Babar Yaqoob said that after the new census, it was not possible to conduct polls as per the old constituencies. The government should take decision in this regard immediately so that the ECP could complete their pre-election task on time, he added.

The federal cabinet last week discussed three formulas for delimitation of constituencies before the next general elections on the basis of the provisional census data.

It was suggested that if seats had to be reallocated on the basis of provisional results of 2017 Census, without changing the existing total number of general seats (272) and women seats (60), increase in two general and one women seat in Balochistan, five general and one reserved seat in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, two general seats in Sindh and one seat in the capital was suggested. In Punjab, reduction of four general seats and two reserved seats was suggested in the said formula.

The other proposal was to increase the number of general seats from 272 to 300. Experts believe the decision would save precious time and help conduct next general elections on time.

The parliamentary leaders have very wisely opted to keep the seats unchanged otherwise any increase or decrease in the National Assembly seats and possible litigation could have delayed the next elections by six months, former ECP secretary Kanwar Dilshad said.

He said, according to Section 224 of the Constitution, without having final results of the census, no new delimitations could be made. The parliament would have to approve the amendment to carry out delimitations on the basis of the provisional results, he pointed out.

Although the representatives of all the parties were present in the meeting, PTI expressed some reservations. “It will take another six months in delimitations if we carry out the whole process,” Asad Umer said, adding in that case the next elections could not be held by August. He said his party wanted fresh elections under the present structure and the winning party could carry out new delimitations.