‘Assemblies’ composition not to be altered’

Women showing their National Identity Cards while standing in a queue at a polling station to cast their votes during an election in Hyderabad, on May 7, 2023. — APP

The composition of national and provincial assemblies will not be altered after the Council of Common Interests (CCI) “unanimously” approved the 2023 census, government ministers clarified Saturday.

The question of a change in the composition of the National Assembly had initially been floated due to an increase in the population growth rate of Balochistan in the earlier provisional figures provided by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics — which would have led to an increase in Balochistan’s seats in the National Assembly, according to The News.

But, according to the publication, the final results of the census do not have the figures given in the provisional results.

The country’s first digital census was conducted by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics throughout May 2023.

The CCI approved the census, which recorded a population of 241.5 million people, an increase of 16% in the past six years, compared 2017 tally of 208 million.

In light of the new census, the law minister said the elections cannot be held before five months and former Election Commission of Pakistan secretary Kanwar Dilshad said it would not be held before February.

After census approval, Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar said the ECP is to complete the delimitation process within an outer limit of 120 days. However, it is the prerogative of the ECP when they start the process.

He maintained that the 2023 census results show that provinces’ share in the general seats of the National Assembly will not change in the next elections.

Adviser on Kashmir Affairs and GB Qamar Zaman Kaira also backed Tarar’s stance, saying that there would be no change in the composition of the assemblies.

“Since there will be no change in the composition, there is no need for a constitutional amendment,” he clarified, noting that the ECP would take at least four months to hold polls.

Speaking to The News, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Interior and Legal Affairs Attaullah Tarar also clarified: “The composition in the National Assembly per province will not change.”

He cites two main reasons behind this stance of the government, the first being that “to change the composition of the National Assembly seats you need a constitutional amendment. This is because the number of seats has been specified in the Constitution”.

Tarar reasons that “if it has to be done it can’t be done without a constitutional amendment”, adding that there would be no assembly to do that and “if an amendment is needed it will be done for some other election. I don’t think a constitutional amendment is possible at this point”.

The second reason for not changing the NA composition is that “the population of the provinces has increased in parity with each other; there is no radical increase anywhere”, Tarar said.

“So I don’t see the composition/allocation of seats changing”. He said that while the number of seats will remain the same in the National Assembly, “boundaries are likely to change within the provinces”.