ISLAMABAD: The government and the main opposition PPP agreed on Wednesday to seek more time from the Supreme Court for nominating a permanent chief election commissioner (CEC).
The understanding was reached during a telephonic conversation between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly, Khurshid Ahmed Shah, a day after the apex court hearing a case about delay in the local government elections directed the government to fill the post by Oct 28.
Chief Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk warned of withdrawing the SC judge officiating as the interim CEC if the post was not filled by that time.
Talking to Dawn, Mr Shah said he had apprised the prime minister of his party’s stance on the court’s ruling and told him that after consulting his legal team he would submit a reply to the court in his capacity as the opposition leader before Oct 28. The reply would explain the reasons for the delay in the appointment of the CEC, he added.
He said he was waiting for the return of his counterpart in the Senate and PPP’s legal wizard Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan to the country to discuss the matter and prepare his response.
Mr Shah was of the opinion that without reforming the Election Commission of Pakistan, electoral reforms would be of no use. “We will put all these points before the SC.”
He said he had also suggested to the prime minister that the Constitution be amended to end the condition that the CEC should be a retired judge. Besides retired judges, politicians or retired bureaucrats should also be eligible to hold the constitutional office of the CEC, he added.
When asked what was Mr Sharif’s response to his proposals, Mr Shah said the prime minister had “agreed” to these and stated that the government would have “no objection” if he filed the reply in the Supreme Court.
The PPP and the PML-N believe that any appointment to the important post in haste could create legal and political problems because the new CEC will remain in office till the next elections and that the nation was already at a political impasse because of the sit-in in Islamabad on the issue of alleged rigging in last year’s general elections.
The office of CEC fell vacant after retired Justice Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim voluntarily tendered his resignation in July last year amidst allegations of rigging and irregularities in the elections.
Justice Ebrahim was the first person to be appointed as CEC after the passage of 18th Amendment, which reduced the tenure of CEC from five to three years. The amendment made it mandatory for the prime minister to consult the opposition leader on the appointment and its approval by a parliamentary committee.
Published in Dawn, October 16th, 2014