Punjab’s share in the general seats of the National Assembly is likely to go down by as much as seven when a new constituency delimitation exercise is conducted in accordance with the population figures provisionally released by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics last month.
Out of a total of 272 geographical constituencies, the country’s biggest province currently has the majority share of 148 seats. Census 2017 has revealed that the population growth rate in Punjab has been the lowest among all the federating units.
Punjab’s loss will mean gain for other provinces. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will be the biggest beneficiary gaining four more seats while Balochistan is likely to add two to its tally of 14 and the share of Islamabad will rise from two to three. Sindh share is likely to remain unchanged.
These calculations are based on the assumption that Fata will continue to retain 12 seats that are double its share in the country’s population. The tribal areas have been accorded similar advantage in all delimitations undertaken since 1970. The unsaid justification for this treatment is that since the area is not represented in a provincial assembly, it has to be compensated with greater representation in the National Assembly. This, however, shall not hold if the tribal areas are merged into KP as proposed in the constitutional amendment bill presented by the government in the National Assembly in May this year.
If the Fata seats stand frozen at 12 and the rest of the 260 are distributed among provinces and the federal capital proportionate to their share in population, there shall be one National Assembly seat for a population of 779,896 and the provincial shares shall be as below.
Within KP, Peshawar district with four seats at present has the strongest case for getting an additional seat. The district’s proportionate share in the 39 seats of the province stands at 5.45. The other clear winners for an additional seat are Swat district and the duo of Lower and Upper Dir.
The fourth additional seat, however, may prove to be contentious. Dera Ismail Khan has at present one whole seat and it shares a second with the tiny district of Tank. But according to the new population figures, Dera Ismail Khan now qualifies for two whole seats with its share standing at 2.1. Tank’s share is still way below one seat, that is 0.5, and the share of its only other neighbouring district, Lakki Marwat, is 1.12 which implies that Lakki Marwat may share one additional seat with Tank. But that will exhaust the available additional seats, leaving none for Bannu that now has a share of 1.49.
Despite the loss of seven seats in Punjab, the provincial capital Lahore’s tally of seat is likely to rise from 13 to 14. The collective share of the south Punjab districts of Dera Ghazi Khan (present seats: 3), Rajanpur (2) and Muzaffargarh (5) stands at 11.78 or 12 seats which is two more than their present total strength. They may each get one additional seat or may share two additional seats among themselves.
On the other hand, the districts of Faisalabad (11), Sahiwal (4), Okara (5) and Narowal (3) clearly stand to lose one seat each. Pakpattan (3) may also lose a seat for its share stands at 2.34. It may, however, share a seat with neighbouring Bahawalnagar (4) that has four seats against a share of 3.82.
Sheikhupura district had seven national seats in the last delimitation but then the new district of Nankana Saheb was carved out of it. Now the two districts’ shares are 4.44 and 1.74, respectively. So Sheikhupura will get four and Nankana two or they will have to share one seat. In either case the number of seats for the older district of Sheikhupura will be reduced to six.
The same will be the case for Jhang and Chiniot districts that were one at the time of last delimitation and had six seats. Their current shares are 3.52 and 1.76. They will either get three and two whole seats or three and one whole while sharing the fifth one. The number of seats for the older district of Jhang in both cases will be reduced from the present six to five.
Gujranwala (7) and Hafizabad (2) now qualify for 6.43 and 1.48 seats, respectively. Their combined share is close to eight but they are likely to get seven unless given one shared seat.
The fractional part of Kasur’s share of 4.43 and of Attock’s 2.41 may find it hard to translate into a national seat. The neighbouring Gujrat and Jhelum districts may also pose a problem as their shares are 3.53 and 1.57 adding up to 5.1 seats but their combined seats at present are six. If these two districts are made to share a seat, it will free up a seat and the best candidates for it can be the Kasur and Lahore combine with an unrepresented share of 0.43 and 0.26, respectively.
Besides Karachi, Sindh had 15 districts at the time of last delimitation. Now the province has 23 districts (sans six of Karachi) which means the new delimitation is likely to change the entire electoral map of the province. The six districts of Karachi now qualify for 20.44 seats compared with its present strength of 20 seats. The fractional share may or may not translate into an additional seat as it will have to compete with six other districts whose fractional shares vary between a quarter to over a third.
In Balochistan, as the districts are less populous than rest of the country, more than one districts are combined to form a national constituency. Ten districts of Kalat and Makran divisions presently share five national seats among themselves. This is unlikely to change as their share in population has only marginally increased from what it was in previous census. The present two seats each of Nasirabad and Zhob divisions will also remain the same.
The proportionate share of Quetta division in province’s seats, however, now stands at 5.41 while it currently has four seats. The share of the neighbouring division of Sibi is 1.35 which means Quetta division in addition to a few districts of Sibi will get both the additional seats that the province is likely to accrue under new delimitation.
The Election Commission has to delimit constituencies after the results of the population census are officially notified. Pakistan Bureau of Statistics has, however, released only provisional figures of the sixth population census yet. The field enumeration exercise for the census was concluded in May this year.
Article by Tahir Mehdi, published in Dawn on 9th September 2017