Disparities in delimitation in 2022 pushed the boundaries of 82 National Assembly constituencies beyond the legally permissible threshold.
Disparities in delimitation in 2022 have created a legal trouble as a number of constituencies do not conform to the law the parliament laid laid down. According to the Election Act 2017, the delimitation process is mandated to occur after each census, at least four months before the scheduled polling day.
Section 20(1) emphasizes that constituency demarcation should consider population distribution in geographically compact areas, physical features, existing administrative boundaries, communication facilities, public convenience, and related factors to ensure homogeneity in constituency creation. The objective is to provide equal power and representation to every vote, regardless of urban or rural divisions.
Disparities in Delimitations in 2022: The Case of 82 Constituencies
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) initiated the fresh delimitation processes in April 2022 and released the preliminary report of delimitation for National and Provincial Assembly constituencies on May 31, 2022, in accordance with Section 21 of the Elections Act, 2017. In total, 82 National Assembly Constituencies exhibit a variation of more than 10 percent from their regional quotas per seat, exceeding the legally permissible threshold, as a result of disparities in delimitation in 2022.
Notably, NA-39 Bannu, with a population of 1,210,183, emerges as the largest constituency, being 1.5 times larger than the average constituency in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (788,933). Conversely, NA-42 Tank, with a population of 427,044, is three times smaller than NA-39 Bannu. This stark contrast between the most and least populous constituencies amounts to 783,139, nearly equivalent to the average population a constituency should have under the law and as stipulated by the ECP.
Disparities in Delimitations in 2022: An Example of Inequality
This population inequality translates into disparate seat allocations, exemplified by Bannu district, with a population of 1.2 million and a seat share of 1.53 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, being assigned one seat—now the largest constituency in the country. Meanwhile, Tank district, with a share of 0.54, is also given one seat, emerging as the second smallest seat.
The resulting inequality from disparities in delimitation in 2022 raises concerns about representation and political contestation, as population disparities for a single seat underscore vast differences in demographics and size. Larger constituencies entail more registered voters, potentially favoring representatives contesting from smaller constituencies. This prompts questions about the existence of a level playing field for political representatives and redirects attention to the need for redressal. Achieving an equitable and level playing field is crucial for effective engagement and management, benefiting both political representatives and the citizens of the constituency.