ISLAMABAD, July 2: Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan of the PML-N said on Monday that he would stick to the names he had already proposed to a parliamentary committee for appointment of new chief election commissioner (CEC) and described the government’s request to add more names to broaden the choice as “far from clear or honest”.
Commenting on reports that the PPP had decided to establish “informal contacts” with the opposition PML-N in an effort to seek some new names of the party’s nominees for the office of CEC to broaden the choice, Chaudhry Nisar categorically said he would not do it.
“As leader of the opposition I will not propose any (new) name for the CEC nor will I be a party to any proposal of the government,” he said in a statement from London.
“Any change or modification in the panel for the sake of consensus will again be dependent on consultation and concurrence of all political parties,” Chaudhry Nisar said. He claimed that it was after consultations with major opposition parties, including Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf (PTI), that he had submitted the three names to the bi-partisan parliamentary committee, headed by PPP’s Syed Khursheed Shah, which is responsible for final approval of the appointment of CEC.
The PML-N stalwart said that despite the fact that there was no legal or constitutional obligation on the opposition leader to consult opposition parties he had done so and even contacted the parties having no representation in parliament.
He said he had held consultation with Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), Pakhtunkhwa Mili Awami Party (PkMAP), PPP-Sherpao, PTI, National Party of Balochistan and Sindh’s nationalist parties before submitting the names to the committee.
Chaudhry Nisar said the deadlock over the issue of CEC’s appointment would continue “if the government insists on getting its own choice appointed to the position”. He was of the opinion that “if the intention is to hold free and fair elections acceptable to all then the consensus on the new CEC can be arrived at within no time”. But, he said, the intentions of “the government are far from clear or honest”.
Chaudhry Nisar said his party would follow the same policy in the case of appointment of a caretaker set-up. “Not only do we intend to propose names of people with a background of impeccable integrity and commitment to the country but also having the support of all opposition parties, both inside and outside the parliament. Only through this process we can ensure that the next elections, which are of vital importance for the country’s future, are free, fair and transparent.”
When contacted, leaders of the JI and PTI confirmed that the PML-N had consulted them at the time of submitting its nominees for the CEC office. However, PkMAP chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai refused to say anything when asked if his party had been consulted by the PML-N on the issue.
JI leader Liaquat Baloch told Dawn that the PML-N had informed them about the three names as a matter of principle, adding that his party had no objection to any of the nominees. However, he said, the PML-N had assured the JI leadership that it would hold another round of consultation before agreeing with the government on any one name.
A source in the PTI said that Chaudhry Nisar had informed Imran Khan through a messenger that the opposition was planning to nominate Justice (retd) Fakharuddin G. Ebrahim for the ECE office. He claimed that the PML-N had not taken the PTI leadership into confidence on the other two names.
The deadlock over the issue of CEC’s appointment was created when the PML-N rejected all three names proposed by former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and later refused to hold further consultations with him, saying the party would not hold talks with a convicted person.
The PML-N later nominated Acting CEC Justice Shakirullah Jan, Justice (retd) Fakharuddin G. Ebrahim and Justice (retd) Nasir Aslam Zahid for the post. The government has proposed the names of Justice (retd) Munir A. Sheikh, Justice (retd) Amirul Mulk Mengal and Justice (retd) Zahid Qurban Alvi.
The PML-N received a boost when a government’s coalition partner — Muttahida Qaumi Movement — supported its nominee Nasir Aslam Zahid.
Under the 18th Amendment, the tenure of the CEC has been increased to five years from three and the procedure for his appointment has been changed. The CEC was earlier appointed by the president, but under Article 213 of the Constitution, the prime minister in consultation with the opposition leader in the National Assembly is required to forward three names to the parliamentary committee for confirmation of one of them.