ISLAMABAD - A high-level meeting of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Wednesday decided to hold next general elections on the existing delimitation of the constituencies.

The meeting chaired by Chief Election Commissioner Sardar Raza Muhammad Khan took the decision after comprehensive briefing by Chief Census Commissioner Asif Bajwa.

Bajwa briefed the meeting that census process had been completed across the country and data entry was underway, and final reports of the census would be published by April next year, while provisional data could be provided by next month.

The chief election commissioner, while speaking on the occasion said that the ECP was unable to start delimitation process till the final and verified census data was provided.

Sardar Raza Khan said that at least seven months were required for completion of the delimitation process.

The chief election commissioner said that under such circumstances the ECP was compelled to hold next general elections on the existing delimitations.

The election commission had already warned the government that the time was running out for the enactment of electoral reforms, if political parties wanted the next general elections to be held under the proposed laws.

Expressing concern over the delay in the promulgation of the Election Laws 2017, the ECP had written to the National Assembly speaker — through the NA secretary — asking him to direct the Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms “to finalise its recommendations and lay the bill before the parliament for making necessary legislation and enact the Election Act 2017 as early as possible so the ECP could start and complete its work in time according to the new law.”

The draft Election Law 2017 was presented by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar who heads the parliamentary committee in an interim report on December 20th last year before both the houses of the parliament.

The minister, while presenting the report said that the committee had decided to seek feedback from all stakeholders, including parliamentarians, adding that a final draft would be completed within 30 days once all recommendations had been incorporated.

The ECP’s letter, however, maintains that under Section 14 of the draft Election Law 2017, the ECP is required to “prepare a comprehensive action plan specifying all legal and administrative measures that have been taken or are required to be taken” at least six months before the general elections are due to be held.

“Keeping in view the importance and magnitude of work, it is apprehended that in case of delayed enactment of new election act by the parliament, timely completion of the aforesaid activities could become a huge challenge for the ECP, impacting quality of elections,” the commission warned, breaking down the various tasks it was required to undertake before the expiry of the terms of the national and provincial assemblies.

The letter said that the 2018 elections were looming and that the commission had to undertake a number of important tasks well before the assemblies’ terms expired.

These tasks included “delimitation/re-description of constituencies; revision of electoral rolls; appointment and training of DROs, ROs, AROs, polling staff; preparation of list of polling stations and list of polling personnel; enlistment of political parties; finalisation of codes of conduct for political parties, security/polling personnel, and media etc.”

The tasks also include, “allocation of symbols; printing of ballot papers and engagement of printing presses; establishment of the result management system; arrangements for election observers; appointment of appellate and election tribunals and security measures.”

The letter also highlights the ECP’s efforts to assist the electoral reforms committee and improvements in the draft law.

“The ECP has made all out efforts to assist the parliamentary committee(s) by providing draft legislative proposals, comparative statements of the existing and proposed legislation, modalities for introduction of electoral technology and international best practices in respect of unified election laws,” the letter said.

The special parliamentary committee was constituted by NA Speaker Ayaz Sadiq on July 25, 2014 and was tasked with “making recommendations to hold free, fair and transparent elections.”

The committee was required to complete its job by October 23, 2014.

Initially, the committee could not hold meetings on a regular basis due to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) sit-in outside the parliament.

The PTI members had initially boycotted the committee’s proceedings, but joined it in January 2015 after the party ended its boycott.

On the other hand, sources in the PTI said that the party had finalised proposals for electoral reforms in the country.

The finalised proposals suggest better management, financial and judicial independence of the ECP.

The PTI, sources said would present this document to chairman Imran Khan, who would then pass it on to the government.

Sources said that the PTI would approach the ECP again on the matter of overseas Pakistanis’ right to vote during general elections.