Will Census Become Basis for Delay in Pakistan’s Elections?


With the Council of Common Interests (CCI) “unanimously” approving the results of the 2023 census there will be a delay in the general elections. The government had announced that all assemblies will be dissolved on August 9. Since the assemblies are being dissolved earlier than their due date, elections need to be held within 90 days of the end of the assemblies’ tenure.


According to news reports, “The government’s allies do not seem to be in agreement over their candidates for caretaker prime minister, and the decision still has to be taken in consultation with the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, Raja Riaz, who has so far held his cards close to his chest. Shunned by his own party, it is no secret that Mr Riaz has been shopping for a ticket that may give him another term as MNA. However, other powers, too, have a lot riding on the decision he has to make, and he is likely to face pressure from both the government and unelected quarters over the choice he has been empowered to make. Due to these reasons, the appointment is being scrutinised from all angles and speculations are rife.”


This decision to hold the elections based on the latest census has also caused differences within the government coalition. According to Dawn, “A decision to use the new census now could push the election back by months. The perception that there are layers upon layers of intrigue at play is giving rise to a palpable sense of unease among the general public. The upcoming general elections were supposed to be a breakout point for the country — a fresh start after months of turbulence triggered by the ouster of the PTI government.”


An editorial in Dawn warned, “all signs right now indicate extensive pre-poll engineering is being done to avoid any ‘undesirable’ outcome of the exercise. It is important that the stakeholders realise that denying the people their right to choose — including by controlling the choices they have available — will only cause the prevailing sense of disenfranchisement to become entrenched. It is critical, given our fraught context, that Pakistanis be allowed to exercise their unfettered right to choose whatever candidates they feel are best suited to their needs.”


Author: Nida Paras