Despite declarations and statements from all parties that the elections must take place on time, it seems that the 2018 elections for the National Assembly are doomed to be delayed. With the failure of 24th amendment bill to pass due to the ineptitude of senators, and now with the audit plan of the census not decided, it seems that a delay is inevitable.
The delaying of the elections has been a process, off by the census. It must be noted that although a national census is mandated by the Constitution of Pakistan to be held every ten years, an audit of the census is not. The results of the 2017 census have been controversial, particularly by political parties in Sindh, which claimed that it had been undercounted; because of which the government agreed to a third-party audit of selected blocs amounting to one per cent of the population.
However, controversy still arose over the issue raised by MQM-P, increase the census blocks for audit from one percent to five percent; meaning that the audit of the census would cover more constituencies. This issue took over much of November, with the Council of Common Interests deciding to concede to the reservations of MQM-P; not taking in consideration the additional effort and time it would take to conduct an audit of a larger area. There is also the important question of who will carry out the audit.
All this has led to us being seven months prior to the hopeful date for the elections, and still not having decided on an audit plan. The process for the audit of the census blocks has yet to take a shape as minutes of the last CCI meeting have not been provided to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) for undertaking the task. The government has committed to complete the exercise in three months’ time, a statistically improbable time; as experts predict at least six to seven months needed to conduct an audit for 5 percent. The delimitation of constituencies based on the audit should be finished three months before polling, making a July election highly unlikely.
The worst blow of all was the consistent failure of the Delimitation Bill to pass in the Senate; for which ineptitude and inefficiency of parliamentarians is to blame. Parties which argued passionately for early elections couldn’t have their senators show up, with 31 senators absent. If the elections are set for delay, all parties have a share of the blame.