Varying Voter-Population Ratios Among NA, PA Constituencies Weaken Equal Suffrage

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Varying Voter-Population Ratios Among NA, PA Constituencies Weaken Equal Suffrage

ISLAMABAD, February 4, 2024: Citizens will vote to elect representatives in the upcoming General Elections in 266 National and 593 Provincial Assembly constituencies, finalized through a rigorous delimitation process in December 2023, in accordance with constitutional and legal requirements following the official publication of the 2023 Digital Population Census Results.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) released the Final Lists of Constituencies (Form-7) for National and Provincial Assemblies on November 30, 2023. Subsequently, a corrigendum for nine constituencies was released on December 12, 2023, and a revised list of 13 constituencies on December 17, 2023. The delimitation finalization process garnered significant citizen interest and input as the ECP received 1,331 representations from voters, of which 345 related to 184 NA constituencies and 1,008 to 473 PA constituencies. As many as 22 representations pertained to both NA and PA constituencies.

Deciding these representations, the Commission changed the territorial limits of 66 NA and 204 PA constituencies, as argued by the petitioners. Notwithstanding the considerable responsiveness of the Commission to public representation, there continues to be 70 national and 65 provincial that exceed the legal threshold of 10 percent variation among population of constituencies of an Assembly. Moreover, a comparison of population-voter ratio among constituencies also reveals a varied pattern. Any new delimitation will be legally due only after the new census.

According to the Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) assessment based on the voter statistics provided in the Final Lists of Polling Stations (Form-28) that are available on the ECP’s website, NA-67 Hafizabad has the highest number of registered voters (810,723) while NA-244 Karachi West-I has the lowest number of registered voters (155,824).

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, NA-18 Haripur has the highest number of registered voters (724,915), while NA-12 Kohistan Upper-cum-Kohistan Lower-Cum-Kolai Pallas Kohistan has the lowest (196,125). In Sindh, NA-209 Sanghar-I has the highest number of registered voters (607,638), whereas NA-244 Karachi West-I has the lowest number of registered voters (155,824). In Balochistan, NA-255 Sohbatpur-cum-Jaffarabad-cum-Usta Mohammad-cum-Nasirabad has the highest number of registered voters (532,537), while NA-264 Quetta-III has the lowest number of registered voters (196,752). In Punjab, NA-67 Hafizabad has the highest number of registered voters (810,723), while NA-124 Lahore-VIII has the lowest number of registered voters (310,116). Among the three NA constituencies in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), NA-47 ICT-II has the highest number of registered voters, with 433,202, while its neighboring constituency, NA-48 ICT-III, has the lowest 292,380 voters.

Examining Provincial Assembly (PA) constituencies also reveals similar trends. In Punjab, PP-7 Rawalpindi-I has the highest number of registered voters (386,073), while PP-11 Rawalpindi has the lowest number of registered voters (125,852). In Sindh, PS-110 Karachi South-V has the highest number of registered voters (315,655), whereas PS-116 Karachi West-I has the lowest number of registered voters (43,045). In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the PK-93 Hangu has the highest number of registered voters (325,951), while PK-33 Kolai Palas Kohistan has the lowest number of registered voters (43,481). In Balochistan, PB-51 Chaman has the highest number of registered voters (194,081), and PB-45 Quetta-VIII has the lowest number of registered voters (50,160).

The voter-to-population ratio across different regions and constituencies also exhibits a diverse pattern. Punjab leads in voter registration, with 57 percent of its total population registered as voters, while Balochistan has the lowest voter registration, with only 36 percent of its total population registered. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa shows a 53 percent voter registration rate, Sindh follows closely with 48.5 percent voter registration, and Islamabad records a voter registration rate of 45.8 percent.

Out of the 216 NA constituencies with available population statistics, 45 constituencies have over 60 percent of their population registered as voters. Additionally, 114 constituencies fall within the range of 51 to 60 percent of their population being registered as voters, while 52 constituencies have voter registration rates between 30 and 50 percent. Notably, five constituencies, including one in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and two each in Sindh and Balochistan, have less than 30 percent of their population registered as voters.

Across NA constituencies, NA-51 Rawalpindi-cum-Murree has 84.3 percent of the constituency’s population registered as voters, which is the highest across Pakistan. Conversely, NA-244 West-I has only 16.5 percent voter-to-population ratio. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, NA-16 Abbottabad-I has 79.3 percent population registered as voters, while NA-12 Kohistan Upper-cum-Kohistan Lower-Cum-Kolai Pallas Kohistan has only 18.8 percent population registered as voters.  In Punjab, the registered voters in NA-51 Rawalpindi-cum-Murree are 84.3 percent of the constituency’s population, while in NA-125 Lahore-IX, the share of registered voters in the constituency’s population is only 37.9 percent. In Sindh, NA-241 South-III has 60.7 percent of population registered as voters, while NA-235 East-I and NA-244 West-I, the share of voters in the population is only 16.6 percent and 16.5 percent, respectively. In Balochistan, the constituencies with the highest and lowest share of registered voters are NA-263 Quetta-II (46.9 percent) and NA-274 Quetta III (21.6 percent).

Multiple factors may contribute to these disparities including the presence of Afghan, Behari, Bengali, Burmese, etc., populations in specific geographical pockets; internal migration patterns play a role, as individuals may be counted in one geographical area based on their residence for work or other reasons, while their voter registration remains in their native areas; and under-registration plausibly of women. However, ECP may dwell into specific reasons in an effort to ensure the principle of equal suffrage in its true spirit.

Similarly, equality of population among the constituencies in an assembly also needs to be adhered to in the spirit of Section 20 (3) of the Elections Act 2017 (Principles of Delimitation), which restricts the population variation to 10 percent. Notwithstanding Rule 10 (5) of the Election Rules 2017 that enables ECP to restrict the population variation among the constituencies in a district, FAFEN holds the population variation must be seen on the basis of the constituencies in an assembly as specifically provided in the law. On that basis, at least 70 NA constituencies and 65 PA constituencies did not comply with the legal requirement of Section 20 (3) of the Elections Act 2017. Among 70 NA constituencies, Punjab had the highest number of constituencies (28) with a population variation of more than 10 percent. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa followed with 21 constituencies, Sindh with 18 constituencies, and Balochistan with three constituencies. In the case of 65 PA constituencies that did not meet the legal requirement, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had 20, Punjab had 18, Balochistan had 16, and Sindh had 11. FAFEN could only assess the variation of only 214 NA constituencies and 399 Provincial Assembly constituencies whose population could be determined since the Final List of Constituencies (Form-7) does not include the population figures of the constituencies.

click here for FAFEN’s Analysis of Final Electoral Rolls and here for FAFEN’s Report on Delimitation of Constituencies