ISLAMABAD: The government has agreed to amend the law specifying qualification for appointment as a member of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) before retirement of the incumbent members in June.

The Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms after a meeting on Thursday directed the government to introduce changes in the law to create room for appointment of bureaucrats and civil servants as chief election commissioner and members of the ECP before June.

The committee had decided last month to change the eligibility criteria for appointment of chief election commissioner and members of the ECP. Members belonging to various political parties, including PML-N, PPP and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), had agreed upon the amendment.

Under Article 213 of the constitution, it is essential for the chief election commissioner to be a retired judge of the Supreme Court, whereas under Article 218 only retired judges of high courts can be appointed as members of the ECP.

The parliamentary committee in Thursday’s meeting sought to delink the matter pertaining to appointment of ECP members from the proposed set of electoral reforms.

Syed Naveed Qamar told reporters that the committee had sought explanation from the secretary of the ECP on his remarks about Panama Papers.

Mr Qamar said the secretary, according to media reports, had said that the ECP could not take action over disclosures by Panama leaks in the absence of directions from the parliamentary committee on electoral reforms. Mr Qamar said the committee had nothing to do with the matter. He said the secretary should explain if he did not make such remarks.

When contacted, ECP Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Mohammad said he never made such remarks. He said he had talked about absence of a complaint from any political party and had stated that apparently there was nothing in the papers prompting him to move a summary to the election commission.

Published in Dawn, April 8th, 2016