Avoiding a constitutional crisis | Pakistan Today

Avoiding a constitutional crisis

  • Without invoking the Supreme Court

An orderly working of the system requires that elections are held on time and power transferred to the winning party peacefully. It is also important to take note of the demographic changes recorded in the latest census to make a fresh delimitation of constituencies on their basis. As the recent census was conducted after nine years, it would have been unfair to conduct the 2018 elections on its basis. The federal government had enough time to remove the reservations expressed by the PPP as far back as March this year when it challenged the procedures put in place for the demographic survey in Sindh High Court. Even months later the federal government remained unmoved when a Sindh minister rejected the census results claiming that the population figures of the province had been artificially decreased to deny the province its rightful share in NFC award and federal jobs, besides reducing its representation in the National Assembly.

This being a dispute between a province and the federal government, the constitutional way out was to resolve the issue in the Council of Common Interests (CCI). The PML-N government has all along been allergic to holding the CCI meetings, frequently delaying them in violation of the prescribed schedule. As usual the government hesitated to convene the meeting till the issue ballooned into a constitutional impasse that threatened to delay the elections, a prospect no party was willing to countenance.

The government sprang into action only after the ECP’s warning that unless a constitutional amendment providing legal status to fresh delimitation of constituencies is passed before November 20, it will not be possible to hold elections on time. The deadlock was broken finally at the CCI meeting on Monday when Sindh agreed to approve the usage of provisional census results for delimitation following assurances from the federal government that a third-party audit of certain population blocks would be conducted. Both sides ceded ground to reach the consensus as routinely happens when institutions try to reconcile competing interests. Moral: Institutions are able to deliver provided they are allowed to work