ISLAMABAD: Some of the politicians’ traits seem to have rubbed off on the judges. A daylong meeting of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Saturday left the retired judges undecided on the name of the caretaker prime minister.
With two votes each for two of the nominees, the vote of the fifth member — retired Justice Roshan Essani from Sindh — is likely to clinch the issue.
The uncertainty over the name of the caretaker premier went into the last day as Chief Election Commissioner Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim and members Riaz Kiani from Punjab, Shahzad Akbar Khan from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fazlur Rahman from Balochistan failed to reach a consensus.
According to sources, while Justice Ebrahim and Justice Rahman found the Peoples Party’s second nominee, retired Justice Mir Hazar Khoso, as the most suitable candidate, Justice Kiani and Justice Khan wanted the office to go to the PML-N’s first nominee, retired Justice Nasir Aslam Zahid.
The situation has made Justice Essani’s vote decisive. Some analysts now see Justice Khoso, whose name was at the bottom of the first list of three PPP nominees, as the strongest candidate for the office.
It’s all but certain that the PPP’s first choice, Dr Ishrat Hussain, and the PML-N’s second nominee, Rasool Bakhsh Palijo, are out of the race.
However, an enigmatic situation may yet develop if the ECP member from Sindh supports a third name since the law is silent on such a split.
During two rounds of deliberations on Saturday, the profiles of the nominees were debated. Two members of the ECP argued in favour of Justice Zahid, citing his integrity. It was pointed out that he had refused to meet the army chief when he was chief justice of the Sindh High Court.
The chief election commissioner and Justice Rahman, however, did not agree.
One of the four members of the parliamentary committee nominated by the PML-N, Sardar Yaqub Khan Nasir, had talked highly about the integrity of Justice Khoso.
A third round of talks was to have taken place after the arrival in the federal capital of Justice Essani, but when he did not arrive, the CEC also expressed his inability to attend it and it was decided that the commission would meet again on Sunday at 10am.
An ECP member told reporters that Justice Essani’s flight from Karachi had been delayed due to bad weather. He said the CEC was not feeling well and was tired after the daylong deliberations, carrying the deliberations into the next day.
Another member conceded that the commission had failed to reach a consensus.
He said efforts were being made to reach a decision through consensus and the deliberations held during the two rounds should not be regarded as a futile exercise.
Talking to reporters on his arrival at the Islamabad airport in the morning, the chief election commissioner had expressed confidence that a decision on the caretaker prime minister would be taken “in hours and not in two days”, but somehow it could not happen.
The ECP’s Secretary Ishtiak Ahmad Khan told reporters that minutes of the parliamentary committee’s proceedings had been summoned from the National Assembly’s secretariat and had been immediately received.
He confirmed that the PPP had also sent a letter to the CEC, making it clear where it stands on the nominees.