FAFEN Recommendations for Just Delimitation of Constituencies

delimitation of constituencies

Presents Recommendations for Improving Transparency of the process of Delimitation of Constituencies. More details here:

Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) has called upon the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to strictly ensure the principle of equality of population among electoral constituencies in the fresh delimitation exercise, initiated as a result of the official publication of 7th Population and Housing Census-2023.

Delimitation of Constituencies: The New Proviso

The delimitation process follows the recent amendments to the Elections Act, 2017 including the insertion of a new proviso to Section 20 (3) that now does not require the ECP to “strictly adhere” to the existing district boundaries if doing so causes the variance in population of constituencies of an Assembly to surpass 10 percent. Such measures are necessary to strengthen the fairness of the election process as required under Article 218 (3) of the Constitution.  The unequal size of constituencies also violates the spirit of the constitutionally guaranteed equality of citizens before the law (Article 25).

The new proviso has neutralized the requirement as carried out in Section 20 (1) that compelled the Election Commission to regard the existing boundaries of administrative units, among other principles, in delimiting electoral constituencies previously. It will also minimize the executive’s influence on the delimitation process, which previously may do so by creating or redefining the boundaries of an existing administrative unit.

The strict adherence to the district boundaries during the delimitation of the National and Provincial Assembly constituencies completed in 2022 resulted in 82 National Assembly (NA) and 88 Provincial Assemblies’ (PA) constituencies having a population varying by more than 10 percent from the respective quotas per seat i.e. average population of a constituency for each province, as calculated under Rules 8 (1) and 8 (4) of the Election Rules, 2017.

Delimitation of Constituencies & Breakdown of Irregularities

The NA constituencies with more than 10 percent population variation included 34 constituencies in Punjab, 22 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 23 in Sindh, and three in Balochistan. The PA constituencies included 30 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 28 in Balochistan, 18 in Sindh, and 12 in Punjab. The largest NA constituency NA-39 Bannu having a population of 1,210,183 was nearly three times bigger than the smallest constituency NA-42 Tank having a population of 427,044. For the PAs, the largest constituency of Balochistan Assembly PB-3 Killa Saifullah (342,932) had around three times more population than PB-23 Awaran (121,821); the largest of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly PK-108 Tank (427,044) had 2.5 times more population than the smallest PK-1 Upper Chitral (169,297); the largest of Punjab Assembly PP-83 Khushab-II (444,166) had 1.3 times more population than the smallest PP-93 Chiniot-I (324,878); and, the largest of Sindh Assembly PS-34 Naushehro Feroze-II (436,288) had 1.3 times more population than the smallest PS-80 Jamshoro-I (315,390).

FAFEN estimates that the population variance of National Assembly constituencies from their respective regional quotas may exceed 10 percent in case of constituencies of two-thirds of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa districts, half of Sindh districts, and one-third of Punjab districts and all of Balochistan districts if district boundaries are to be respected as was the previous practice.

FAFEN Proposes Amendment to Rules

FAFEN recommends that the Commission may consider amending its rules on the delimitation of constituencies to materialize the spirit of the newly added proviso to Section 20 (3). Specifically, FAFEN recommends amending Rules 10 (4) and 10 (5) for limiting population variance to a maximum of 10 percent within a province instead of five percent within a district. Additionally, in the interest of electoral transparency, ECP must also add a column in Form-7 (Final List of Constituencies) to provide an updated population of final constituencies after the disposal of representations filed on the draft list of constituencies.

The Commission may also make it binding upon the Delimitation Committees to provide a constituency-wise explanation of the exceptional cases where variance exceeds 10 percent. Although the Preliminary Report of Delimitation of Constituencies, 2022 mentioned reasons for deviations, an exhaustive list of the reasons for each such case was missing.  The Commission may also consider inserting in its Rules a clear definition of the cognate factors to be regarded during the delimitation of constituencies as provided in Section 20 (1) of the Act in order to minimize the discretionary space available to Delimitation Committees.

FAFEN also recommends amending Rules 12 and 13 concerning the making of, hearing, and disposal of the representations in order to facilitate the voters who wish to make representations on the delimitation proposals. The Commission may consider pre-hearing scrutiny of the representations to identify only those, which offer convincing evidence and grounds for their proposed changes. The screened representations can thus proceed further through physical hearings. FAFEN also recommends holding these hearings in the provinces instead of the federal capital to ease the traveling costs and hassle for the voters making the representation.

FAFEN reiterates that substantial improvements in the delimitation process are critical to improving the electoral process and preventing imbalance of population across electoral precincts and ensuring the representativeness of all geographical, linguist, ethnic, and religious diversity in the elected bodies. Delimitation is one of the most critical mechanisms of allocation of political power to people by the state, and therefore, must be just, fair, and transparent.

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