Constituencies in Karachi have been redrawn without the completion of a fresh census and the changes should be declared unconstitutional, said the counsel for the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) on Wednesday.
In his concluding arguments before the Sindh High Court (SHC), which is hearing an MQM petition against the delimitation of three national and eight provincial assembly constituencies in Karachi, counsel Farogh Naseem said the changes were not made in accordance with the last recognized census held in 1998.
He said the changes in the city’s electoral precincts were made on the basis of an incomplete census. He said the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had not denied in its comments that delimitation had been done on the basis of the 1998 census.
The MQM has assailed the ECP’s March 22 notification about delimitation, and prayed to court to declare it unlawful and without jurisdiction. The party has termed the notification nothing but “gerrymandering” and against the spirit and principle of “one man-one vote”.
Naseem submitted that the election process commenced after the announcement of the election date by the president of Pakistan on March 20, followed by the issuance of the election schedule by the ECP on March 22; therefore, fresh delimitation of constituencies could not be done till such time the election process was completed.
“The conservative view will be that the election process starts from the announcement of polls by the president on March 20, while the liberal view will be that the election process commenced on March 16,” said the counsel.
“We will rather take the logical view,” observed Justice Maqbool Baqar, who is heading a division bench hearing the petition.
The counsel contented that after the start of the election process neither the constituencies could be redrawn nor the electoral rolls changed as both were relevant to each other, and if such an exercise was undertaken it would affect the entire election process. He said such exercises had to be conducted prior to the commencement of the election process.
He said the ECP unlawfully exercised suo moto powers under Section 10-A of the Delimitation of Constituencies Act without fulfilling the mandatory requirement by inviting public objections. ‘Even for the suo moto powers, the natural justice is essential which is lacking in such impugned exercise.”
The counsel said the impugned delimitation was against the basic structure of the constitution, and prayed court to declare that the notification ultra vires of the constitution. He also sought an order for holding elections on the basis of the last delimitation and electoral rolls.
The MQM said that after the Supreme Court judgment on Karachi’s law and order situation in October 2011, the census process was to be initiated by the government, followed by delimitation, but the government did not conduct a census malafidely.
However, the ECP justified the changes in its comments mentioning that the Supreme Court had observed in its judgment that the boundaries of administrative units like police stations and revenue estates ought to be altered to avoid political polarisation and break the cycle of ethnic strife and turf wars.
The court also heard arguments on a petition of PPP Karachi President Abdul Qadir Patel, who challenged the delimitation of Karachi’s National Assembly constituency of NA-239.
His counsel GN Qureshi submitted that the objections raised by the petitioner to the delimitation were not considered by the ECP. He said that the petitioner was not against the fresh delimitation of constituencies as per the direction of the Supreme Court, but the ECP included three and half defunct union councils of Baldia Town and two defunct UCs of Keamari Town in the constituency without any justification.
A division bench, headed by Justice Maqbool Baqar, adjourned the hearing till April 8 on the request of the deputy attorney general, who sought time to file comments.