By Amir Wasim
ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Monday issued a preliminary report of the draft proposals for the delimitation of constituencies of the national and provincial assemblies for the upcoming general elections in the country, with more than 30 unusually large and small constituencies in terms of population.
While the average population per constituency calculated on the basis of the last year census findings in the country, excluding the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), comes to 779,886, a careful analysis of the data released by the ECP in its report shows there are seven constituencies with more than a million population and 23 other constituencies having population of over 900,000.
The most populous constituency is NA-35 Bannu in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with a population of 1,167,892, followed by NA-87 Hafizabad-I in Punjab with a population of 1,156,957 while in a sharp contrast the NA-262 Kachhi-Jhal Magsi constituency in Balochistan has the population of 386,255. The difference between the most and least populous constituencies comes to 781,637 — even more than the average population a constituency should have under the laws and as mentioned by the ECP itself in each province.
These unusually large and small constituencies are present in all the provinces: 10 in Punjab, nine in Sindh, eight in KP and four in Balochistan.
Over 30 unusually small and large units in terms of population among the redefined constituencies of national and provincial assemblies
The ECP, which redefined the boundaries of the constituencies in the light of the provisional results of last year’s census, has invited objections from the stakeholders and the constituents on the delimitation within 30 days.
In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the average quota per seat as calculated by the ECP comes to 782,651. The data shows that NA-1 Chitral has the population of 447,362 while NA-17 Haripur has the population of 1,003,031.
In Punjab, the average quota per seat is 780,266 but NA-55 Attock-I constituency has the population of 960,927, followed by NA-114 Jhang-I (957,220) and NA-121 Sheikhupura-III (919,756).
Similarly, there are three constituencies — NA-197 Kashmore, NA-220 Umerkot and NA-196 Jacobabad —with more than a million population in Sindh while the quota per seat should be 785,135.
In Balochistan, NA-268 constituency comprising areas of Mastung-Chaghi-Kalat-Nushki-Sikandarabad has population of 1,083,497, followed by NA-270 Panjgur-Washuk-Kharan-Awaran with the population of 909,116.
A senior ECP official, when contacted, said a district had been taken as basic territorial unit while drawing the constituencies. The official admitted that there would be a few abnormally large constituencies in the country because of their efforts to avoid overlapping of the districts. “Had we not done so, there was a possibility that some parts of Attock would have to be made part of Chakwal or some areas of Rawalpindi would have to be merged in Jhelum,” he added.
About the abnormal constituencies in Balochistan, the ECP official said they had kept some other factors in mind as it had been observed in the past that candidates in some constituencies used to get the required number of votes by visiting only a few localities instead of all areas within their constituency. In this regard, he cited the example of NA-259 Dera Bugti-Kohlu-Barkhan-Sibbi-Lehri, saying the candidates belonging to Lehri had mostly won the seat without visiting far-flung areas.
According to the ECP report, the National Assembly will continue to have 272 general seats. Out of these, Punjab will have the biggest share with 141 seats, followed by Sindh with 61 seats, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with 39 and Balochistan 16 seats. Fata will have 12 seats while the capital Islamabad will have three seats in the National Assembly after the delimitation.
Presently, Punjab has a share of 148 of the total 272 National Assembly seats. The quota of seats for Islamabad, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan will be increased in the new assembly whereas the number of seats from Sindh will remain unchanged.
At provincial level, the total number of constituencies will be 297 in Punjab Assembly, 130 in Sindh Assembly, 99 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly and 51 in Balochistan Assembly.
Instead of Peshawar, Chitral will now be the first constituency of the national and KP assemblies. KP’s last constituency in the National Assembly will be NA-39 Dera Ismail Khan-II. Geographical constituencies ranging from NA-40 to NA-51 will belong to Fata, while NA-52, 53 and 54 will lie in Islamabad.
Punjab’s first constituency in the National Assembly will be NA-55 Attock-I while the last constituency from the province will be NA-195 Rajanpur-III. Previously, Rawalpindi and Rahimyar Khan were the first and last constituencies of the province.
The first NA constituency in Sindh will be NA-196 Jacobabad while the last constituency will be NA-256 Karachi Central-IV. NA-297 Qila Saifullah/Zhob will be the first Balochistan constituency in the National Assembly while its last constituency will be NA-272 Lasbela/Gwadar.
The ECP says the prime objective of compiling the report and list of constituencies is to invite representations and provide practical information to all the stakeholders as how the ECP has taken its responsibility to delimit the constituencies bestowed upon it by the Constitution in order to organise elections honestly, justly, fairly and in accordance with law.
“The principles are to the effect that all constituencies shall, as far as practicable, be delimited having regard to the distribution of population in geographically compact area, existing boundaries of administrative units, facilities of communication and public convenience and other cognate factors to ensure homogeneity in the creation of the constituencies,” the report read.
“As far as may be, the constituencies for elections to the same assembly within the district shall be equal amongst themselves in population,” it says.
The share of seats in the national and provincial assemblies in respect of each district worked out on the basis of population census 2017 of the country, except Fata, was divided by the total number of general seats and the average population or quota per National Assembly seat was obtained, it explains. Similarly, it says, the population of a province was divided by the total number of general seats allocated to the provincial assembly of a province for obtaining quota per seat in that provincial assembly.
The ECP had started the delimitation exercise afresh on Jan 15 in accordance with the number of seats in the national and provincial assemblies as specified in Articles 51 and 106 of the Constitution.
Published in Dawn, March 6th, 2018