ISLAMABAD: Chief Election Commissioner retired Justice Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim was displeased by the Supreme Court’s decision to change the presidential poll schedule and went to the extent of making an abortive attempt to set aside the verdict on the day he scrutinised the candidates’ nomination papers.
According to an official of the commission, the CEC had written a note declaring the court’s decision an attack on the independence of the ECP. He wanted his fellow members to endorse the note and decide that the election would be held in accordance with the original schedule announced by the commission.
But the move was not supported by three (of the four) available members who were of the view that the ECP should have taken that stand during the hearing of PML-N leader Raja Zafarul Haq’s petition seeking change in the election schedule.
An official said the time for scrutiny of the nomination papers was extended twice by the CEC in the hope that he would be able to persuade the members to support his point of view.
Under the Second Schedule of the constitution, the ECP is to conduct election to the office of president with the CEC as the returning officer. It is for the CEC to fix the time and place for depositing nomination papers, holding scrutiny, making withdrawals and holding the poll, by public notification.
The official said that under Article 41(4) of the constitution, the election was to be held not earlier than 60 days and not later than 30 days before the expiry of the term of the president in office.
He said the CEC firmly held that the schedule announced by the commission was in conformity with the relevant constitutional provisions and did not like the change in it made by the Supreme Court at the eleventh hour.
“This was seen by the CEC as an encroachment into the domain of the ECP by the apex court mandated under the constitution to interpret the constitution.”
He said the decision had come two days after the ECP had rejected a similar government plea for amending the schedule.
He pointed out that the ECP had clarified its position after the SC verdict, saying that any aggrieved party should approach the court because it was not a decision of the ECP.
The official said the CEC was disappointed by the ‘weakness’ demonstrated by the members of the commission and believed that it was tantamount to surrendering the powers given to the commission by the constitution. The official claimed that Justice Ebrahim was considering to resign in protest because he found it difficult to work with such members.