ISLAMABAD: A day ahead of the apex court's deadline, the parliamentary committee for the appointment of the chief election commissioner (CEC) has agreed on the name of Justice Sardar Mohammad Raza Khan as the new CEC.
Senator Rafiq Rajwana of the Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) who heads the committee made the announcement at a press conference in Islamabad.
Later, on the advice of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, President Mamnoon Hussain formally approved the appointment of Justice Khan as the new chief election commissioner of Pakistan. A notification has also been issued in this regard.
Sardar Raza Khan is expected to take oath of his new post on Friday.
During today's meeting of the parliamentary committee, Awami National Party (ANP), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) agreed on the name of Justice Sardar Raza. PPP's Islamuddin Shaikh proposed the name of Justice Raza for the post and Senator Haji Adeel of the ANP seconded it. MQM's Farooq Sattar also agreed with the name along with committee members belonging to the PML-N, which led to the unanimous selection of Justce Sardar Raza.
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Shahryar Afridi did not attend the meeting of the committee. PTI MNAs have refrained from attending meetings of the parliamentary committee since legislators from the party tendered their resignations en masse at the peak of the Islamabad sit-ins in August.
The announcement of Sardar Raza's name as CEC was made after the parliamentary committee held a meeting today (Thursday) to finalise the name before Friday – the deadline set by the Supreme Court to fill the key constitutional office which has been lying vacant for over 16 months.
Also read: CEC consultation
Justice Sardar Raza Khan, the incumbent Chief Justice of Federal Shariat Court, retired as judge of the Supreme Court in 2011. The 69-year-old was among the judges of the apex court who had refused to take oath under the Provisional Constitution Order (PCO) after the imposition of emergency by then military ruler Pervez Musharraf in 2007.
Justice Raza, who belongs to Abbottabad in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, was also a member of the bench headed by then chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry which gave a decision in the famous NRO case. He was the only member who gave a “partial dissenting note”.
Similarly, while hearing a petition challenging the PCO, Justice Raza was also not in favour of issuing contempt of court notices to the judges who had taken oath under the PCO.
The appointment comes as the Supreme Court had warned the government it would withdraw on Dec 5 its judge Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali who is currently officiating as acting CEC if the office was not filled by that time.
Earlier, the court had set Oct 28, Nov 13 and Nov 25 as deadlines for CEC’s appointment.
But the issue remained unresolved. After a meeting on Nov 6, both the prime minister and the leader of opposition went abroad and could not hold direct consultation. Both sides blamed Imran Khan for the delay in the appointment, saying every candidate wanted to save himself from any controversy because of the PTI chairman's criticism of previous nominees.