The Prime Minister’s saying that the coming polls will be held on the basis of this year’s census means only one thing: the general elections for the National Assembly will not be held on time. There is simply not enough time for the 90-day deadline to be met between a dissolution of the National Assembly and the election to be met. At the moment, there is a sort of limbo on the census, as it has been conducted, and while provisional results are available, the final result has not been notified. Until that notification takes place, the Election Commission of Pakistan cannot proceed to the delimitation of the constituencies of the various assemblies. It is also more than possible that while a district gets allotted the same number of seats as before, the boundaries might change to accommodate shifts in population. The process can only start once the Council of Common Interests approves the census results for notification. If the present government attempts to hold a CII meeting so as to rush through the results, it is likely to face opposition from Sindh. It also faces problems with coalition partners, with the MQM and PPP at daggers drawn on the issue.
This seems to contradict the earlier decision of the Electoral Reforms Committee not to allow the results to be used for the coming election. The last census was late, being conducted in 2017, instead of 2009, and this census is early, because they are supposed to be conducted at ten-year intervals, making one not due until 2027. Even in 2018, the census results had not yet been notified (something only done by the PTI government after the federal government agreed to conduct a fresh census).
If the current government does not notify the census result, the caretakers might. The mandate of the caretaker government, intended to allow it to take steps to allow it to perform the actions required by the IMF, may be used to hold the CCI meeting and notify the census. Once notified, fresh delimitations are not an option. The ECP will have to carry them out, and thus provide the perfect excuse for elections to be put forward. Already, the ECP has violated time limits and court mandates, first in the Islamabad local body polls, the in the Punjab and KP provincial polls. It is to be hoped that no excuse is found to do the same for national polls.