Pakistan's Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar said holding the general elections based on the 2023 digital census was not feasible before January or February of 2024, The News International reported.
Talking to Geo News on Saturday, Tarar said a meeting of the Council of Common Interest (CCI) headed by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif "unanimously" approved new census results.
Referring the Article 51 of the Constitution, the law minister said that the general elections for the national and provincial assemblies will be conducted as per the limits of the constituencies published by the Commission, The News International reported.
The Law minister said the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is to complete the delimitation process within an outer limit of 120 days. However, it is the prerogative of the ECP how soon they start the process.
He maintained that the census 2023 results show that provinces' share in the general seats of the National Assembly will not change in the next elections, The News International reported.
The outer limit of 120 days can be reduced by effective work, the law minister said, adding that 54 more days are required for holding the general elections.
The entire process should not go beyond 150 to 165 days, he added.
The minister said that all eight members of the CCI agreed on holding the upcoming elections on the basis of Census 2023, The News International reported.
PM Shehbaz Sharif, all four chief ministers and other members of the body were among the attendees at the meeting, he added.
Earlier in the day, the Council of Common Interest (CCI) meeting "unanimously" approved the 2023 census.
PM Shehbaz Sharif chaired a meeting of the CCI to decide the fate of the 2023 census amid reports of division among the coalition partners over the matter.
The meeting was attended by Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and Punjab Caretaker Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi, according to sources.
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Aviation Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique, Commerce Minister Syed Naveed Qamar, Adviser to the PM on Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit Baltistan Qamar Zaman Kaira and other officials also participated in the huddle, The News International reported.
According to the sources, the Ministry of Planning briefed the participants on the digital census. Moreover, the results of the 2023 census were also presented during the CCI meeting.
The meeting was also briefed that Pakistan's population has reached 240.10 million.
The insiders said the CCI huddle unanimously approved the latest digital census despite the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), a key ally of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM)-led government, had publicly expressed reservations over it.
The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) also reportedly informed the federal government that it had completed all the formalities, The News International reported.
The general elections are likely to be delayed by a couple of months as the ECP would need additional time to conduct the delimitation exercise afresh.
Under the law, if a new census is notified, the ECP is bound to hold elections on the basis of new data.
It is important to note that the ruling coalition has agreed to dissolve the National Assembly prematurely on August 9 - three days before its term ends - giving the electoral body 90 days to conduct polls.
The two main coalition partners of PM Shehbaz Sharif - Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) and PPP - hold opposite views on the enumeration.
The PPP has on multiple occasions said that polls should be held on the basis of the 2017 census, reiterating that any delay in polls will not be accepted.
On Friday, speaking on the floor of the Senate, Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman said the census issue was controversial and would open up a new Pandora's box of delimitation of constituencies.
"This issue could be used to delay the election. We don't want elections to be delayed, rather it should be held on time and under the Constitution," she maintained.
On the other hand, MQM-P has shared its concerns on the matter with the prime minister, stressing that elections on the previous enumeration would not be acceptable.
Speaking to Geo News on Friday, former secretary, ECP, Kanwar Dilshad said if the CCI approves the census for this year, the elections will be held next year, The News International reported.
"If the gazette notification of the new digital census is issued on the recommendations of the CCI, then the ECP is legally bound under Article 51(5) of the Constitution to conduct fresh delimitation," he added.
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