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ISLAMABAD: Two members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) from Sindh and Balochistan will retire next month on completion of two and a half years in office.

The mechanism for retirement of members after their half term in office had been put in place through the 22nd Amendment to ensure continuity of the electoral body.

The amendment was made to avoid repetition of the experience of 2010 when four members retired together and the commission remained virtually dysfunctional for months. Consequently, legality of around two dozen by-polls held by the then chief election commissioner (CEC) alone in the absence of members faced legal challenge.

Article 215 of the Consti­tu­tion in its amended form reads: “The Commissioner [and a member] shall, subject to this Article, hold office for a term of five years from the day he enters upon his office.” A proviso to the article reads: “Provided that two of the members shall retire after the expiration of first two and a half years and two shall retire after the expiration of the next two and a half years: Provided further that the Commission shall for the first term of office of members draw a lot as to which two members shall retire after the first two and a half years.”

The draw to decide which two members would lose their offices on Jan 26, 2019 was held at an event presided over by CEC retired Justice Sardar Muham­mad Raza. All the members — ECP secretary, law secretary and parliamentary affairs secretary — attended the event.

In the draw it was decided that ECP member from Sindh Abdul Ghaffar Soomro and member from Balochistan retired Justice Shakeel Baloch would retire in January.

The commission used to have a sitting Supreme Court judge as CEC and four serving judges of high courts as members from all the respective provinces until 2010. The scheme was altered through the 18th Constitution Amend­ment to provide for a permanent election commission, comprising retired judges or those eligible to be appoin­ted as judges.

The eligibility criteria had been changed again through the 22nd Amendment to provide for appointment of bureaucrats and technocrats as members of the ECP, besides the judiciary.

Published in Dawn, December 11th, 2018

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