At the 33rd session of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) on Monday, the centre and provinces reached a crucial consensus over the plausible delimitation procedure and holding the general election on time. The major contention in the deadlock – doubts over the accuracy of the census – will now be verified to the satisfaction of the detractors.
One percent of the interim census results will be selected and audited by international professionals in order to keep the process neutral and create credibility for the accuracy test. The blocks will be selected randomly through a draw and the process will take three months to complete.
At the end of the day the ‘breakthrought’ was a rather straightforward one. It was a simple, common sense solution, and one that Sindh parties had been explicitly asking for asking for. This makes the delay of getting all the stakeholders on board, the lack of decorum in the parliament, and the botched roll out of the amendment bill all the more inexplicable; these concerns could have been addressed earlier.
That being said, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was chairing the meeting and he should be commended for managing to bring together all the parties on board with the delimitation discussion. The parties must also be commended for joining forces, getting on the same platform, putting aside personal interests and finally realising that national interest and common sense comes before political point scoring.
The break in the impasse couldn’t have come sooner. Already the clock is ticking and the new verification exercise is utilising precious time. However, it must not be forgotten that the meeting being successful does not mean that anything will materialise. There are still a lot of factors which need to be considered and streamlined.
The ECP is bound by the constitution to conduct the election based on the recent census results but they cannot do so if a final notification is issued. The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) claims that the final notification can be issued by April 2018. The ECP secretary in response has claimed that if the final notice is issued by April, it will be a little too late to conduct fresh delimitation based on the constitution. All of these aspects can derail the process and the government must remain vigilant of the coming challenges.
It must be remembered that anything short of an on time election on new delimitation on the new census will be unconstitutional and unacceptable.