The fear that looms in front of the ruling party is the possible delay of the general elections 2018, as the opposition benches have objected the delimitation of constituencies. While the delimitation of constituencies becomes a necessary exercise after the census is held, the deadlock among the political parties over such a practice has made the fate of the upcoming elections uncertain. It is not only criticism of the opposition parties that have resulted in the delay of the constitutional amendment but the lack of interest that the treasury benches show in making the amendment approved by the lower house.

While all parliamentary parties’ leaders reached a consensus on the delimitation of constituencies last week, parties from Sindh have changed their minds. “Apprehensions” over the veracity of the census still ostensibly remain the sticking point in proceedings.

Hence, Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) Khursheed Shah insists on holding the next elections on the basis of two decades old figures. Similarly, Mutahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM) leader Farooq Sattar has his own suggestion; that delimitation should be carried out on the basis of registered voters instead of population.

However, their opposition to the provisional results of the census and their suggested alternatives, in principle, hold no water. In reality, their suggestions are an attempt to protect their respective parties from the possible changes that will happen in their constituencies and voter base if ECP is allowed to carry out delimitation – changes which will be pronounced in the rapidly urbanising Karachi and the surrounding areas of Sindh.

These proposals are not only disingenuous, but unconstitutional as well. A census mandates fresh delimitation and preparation of new voter rolls – every other “alternative” automatically becomes unconstitutional.

Furthermore, if the elections are conducted on the basis of figures of the old census the whole purpose of the recently held census – conducted at great cost and effort - would die.

The government needs to stand firm on its correct and legal stance and push for fresh delimitation. However it should do everything in its power to remove these apprehensions and proceed with the bill. It is not especially difficult to do so; Kursheed Shah has already indicated that if the government releases block-wise data of the census to he would be satisfied.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), which has made their agreement to the bill contingent on the approval of other opposition parties, needs to let political brinkmanship take a backseat for a moment and actively work to break this deadlock for the greater benefit of the country.