LAHORE - Although former president Asif Ali Zardari claims that his party is prepared to face fresh election even if held during the current year, there is little possibility of the PML-N agreeing to premature poll, no matter what the long-awaited decision in the Panama case.

PML-N sources insist that the incumbent government will complete its mandated five-year term, which means the election will be held sometime after June next year, not during the remaining nine months of the current calendar.

Whatever the plans of the ruling party to meet any eventuality, a former secretary of the Election Commission of Pakistan says procedural formalities for fresh election cannot be completed during the current year, especially because of the steps necessitated by the ongoing housing and population census.

But before sharing Kanwar Dilshad’s calculation/analysis with our readers, let’s see what strategy the PML-N may follow after the Panama case verdict.

There are two possibilities as far as the fate of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is concerned. Either the decision will go in his favour or against him. If the verdict is favourable, the PML-N will try to exploit the victory by projecting the integrity/honesty of the prime minister and failure of the opposition parties to tarnish his image. The party will like to stay in power to the last day of its term to be able to complete the ongoing development projects worth billions and billions of rupees. The party believes that even the wavering voters will support the PML-N once they tasted the comforts and benefits of the new projects.

It is argued that Mian Nawaz Sharif has still not forgotten how he was ousted twice in the past without allowing him to complete terms; therefore, his party will not like to shorten its tenure, which is avoidable option.

But in case the verdict goes against the prime minister, even then nobody will like to think of premature election. Although the PML-N leaders say that the party will not like to nominate anyone as successor to Mr Sharif, analysts say the party will have no other option but to bring in a new face and let the assemblies complete their term. The new man/woman will have the backing of Mr Sharif and will follow the leadership’s instructions. The idea again is to get time to complete the projects started by the PML- N government.

Now let’s share the analysis/calculation of Mr Kanwar Dilshad.

He says that after the census is completed, new delimitation of constituencies will become imperative under Delimitations Act, 1974.

The draft of the census will be made public by June/July. Thereafter the process of delimitations will start which may take about six months to complete.

The ECP seeks objections from the people, for which a period of three weeks is given. The Commission takes another one month to take a decision on those objections. This means February will be over by then.

According to Mr Dilshad, the ECP has conveyed to the Statistics Division that it will start delimitations process on the basis of final, not draft census results.

He says the serial numbers of the existing constituencies will change because of urbanization at a large scale. Notification of new constituencies, he says, will not be possible before June next year. And this will be the month when the assemblies complete their constitutional term.

Then the assemblies will be dissolved and the process for next elections started which under the supervision of a caretaker setup will take two months to complete.

The question is what will happen if, hypothetically speaking, the prime minister uses his constitutional powers and dissolves the assembly before it completes its term.

The former ECP secretary says in that case a reference will have to be moved to the Supreme Court to seek permission to hold election on the basis of 2002 delimitations. And nobody knows how long the apex court will take to grant permission.