MUZAFFARABAD: The Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) government notified on Thursday the appointment of AJK High Court Chief Justice Ghulam Mustafa Mughal as the chief election commissioner (CEC), in accordance with the advice of the AJK Council.

Under the region’s interim constitution, the CEC is appointed by the government on the advice of the AJK Council headed by the prime minister of Pakistan.

On November 16, the council had advised the appointment of Justice Mughal as permanent CEC. But instead of following the advice, the government amended the CEC (terms and conditions) Act, 1992 and inserted Section 6-A allowing the appointment of acting CEC.

Justice Mughal was then appointed acting CEC; a position he declined to accept.

Meanwhile, two PML-N lawmakers had challenged the amendment in the high court, which declared the amendment ultra vires of the Constitution, but did not grant the petitioners’ request for appointment of Justice Mughal as permanent CEC.

The verdict was challenged in three separate appeals in the AJK Supreme Court which disposed of them on January 25 and declared that the “November 16 advice is legal, valid and holds ground”.

But instead of acting on the decision, the government again amended the act, rendering a sitting judge ineligible for the CEC post.

This led the PML-N lawmakers to file a contempt of court application in the Supreme Court.

On Monday, the court criticised the non-implementation of its judgment and indicated that it could take punitive measures as “prima facie, the conduct of the government constituted a case for contempt of court proceedings”.

Sensing the Supreme Court’s mood, the government presented before it a notification on Thursday regarding the appointment of Justice Mughal as the CEC.

The notification said it was issued in compliance with the January 25 judgment as well as observations of the apex court on the contempt application.

Published in Dawn, February 12th, 2016

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