ISLAMABAD: While a parliamentary committee, chaired by National Assembly Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi, has been looking into irregularities in delimitation of NA constituencies, Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen) on Tuesday released a report which claims that the principle of the equality of vote is compromised in as many as 92 out of 575 provincial assemblies’ (PA) constituencies.
Fafen, a think-tank, claims in its report that the principle of the equality of vote — a key principle for ensuring equitable political representation — is compromised in 26 constituencies of the Balochistan Assembly, 23 of the Sindh Assembly, 22 of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly and 21 of Punjab Assembly.
These proposed constituencies deviate by more than 10 per cent from their respective provincial average population per PA constituency; exceeding the ordinarily permissible variation range of 10pc established by the law.
Of 92 PA constituencies, 72 constituencies have been suggested with a variation rate between 11pc and 20pc, nine constituencies have variation between 21pc and 30pc, seven constituencies have a higher degree of variation between 31pc and 40pc, three constituencies have a variation between 41pc and 50pc while in case of one Balochistan PA constituency, this variation is exorbitantly higher than 50pc.
In a detailed analysis of proposed provincial assembly constituencies in the Preliminary Report and List of Constituencies released by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), Fafen examined the variations found in the population and voter size of the constituencies with regards to the provincial and district averages of population and voters per constituency.
Says principle of equality of vote is compromised
According to the report, a comparative assessment of the proposed delimitations reveals lopsided inter-provincial and intra-provincial demarcations in the average population sizes of constituencies. For instance, the average population per PA constituency in Balochistan is 242,054 citizens, while the average population per constituency in Punjab is 370,307 citizens. Similarly, within the provinces, districts do not fare equal with regards to population to PA seats ratio. Wide variation has been noted in the smallest and largest population-to-seat ratios of PA constituencies in all provinces. For instance, PB-17 Jhall Magsi in Balochistan represents 149,225 citizens, while the population size of PB-24 Killa Abdullah-III is almost three times more than PB-17 i.e. 407,323 citizens.
“This is a serious violation of the principle of equality of vote, since the voting power of a citizen in PB-24 is effectively three times less than half the voting power of his/her counterpart in PB-17,” the report says.
Similarly, in KP, PK-35 Torghar has been demarcated as a constituency with a population of 171,395 citizens, while PK-1 Chitral has a population of 447,362 – more than twice of the former’s population size.
In Punjab, PP-273 Muzaffargarh-VI has been created with a population of 318,574 citizens, while PP-34 Gujrat-VII represents a much larger population size of 433,794 citizens.
In Sindh, PS-77 Thatta-I has been allocated a population of 312,248 citizens, whereas PS-35 Naushehro Feroze-III represents 429,980 citizens.
Moreover, the Fafen’s analysis also identified the discrepancies between population figures used for the NA constituencies and PA constituencies. The sum of the NA constituencies’ population does not match the sum of the PA constituencies’ population in at least four districts, including Dera Ghazi Khan, Lodhran and Muzaffargarh in Punjab and Abbottabad in KP.
In Punjab, population of PA seats falling in Dera Ghazi Khan and Lodhran is more than the population of NA seats in these districts while the PA seats’ population in Muzaffargarh is fewer than the NA seats population of the district.
Owing to these differences, as many as 90,550 citizens residing in these districts may potentially be disenfranchised from representation in the NA or PA.
Similarly, in KP, there is a difference of 360 citizens between the total population assigned to NA seats and the population assigned to PA seats.
The averages of voters per PA constituencies vary greatly across provinces. In Balochistan, the average voting population per PA constituency is as low as 72,595 while in Punjab the average goes up to 187,948. In cases of Sindh and KP, the average voting population per PA constituency is 158,804 and 141,580, respectively.
Fafen recommends that the deviation from delimitation principle of capping the variation to ±10pc should be taken seriously and it should be ensured that the citizen’s right to equal representation is respected throughout the country.
Published in Dawn, April 11th, 2018