ISLAMABAD: Human Rights Minister Dr Shireen Mazari has been elected chairperson of the parliamentary committee on the appointment of the chief election commissioner (CEC) and members of the Election Commission (ECP).

Two Senate standing committees also elected their chairs during meetings at Parliament House on Tuesday.

Dr Mazari’s name came up as a candidate for the chairpersonship during the parliamentary committee, which finalised her appointment after some deliberation.

The parliamentary committee will appoint two ECP members for Sindh and Balochistan, to replace members retiring on Jan 26 after two and a half years in office.

The mechanism for the retirement of ECP members after completing half a term was set up through the 22nd Amendment, to ensure continuity.

The amendment was made to prevent a repeat of 2010, when four members retired together and the commission was virtually non-functional for months.

The legality of around two dozen by-elections held by the CEC alone during this time was also challenged.

In its amended form, Article 215 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 states: “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 who would retire on Jan 26, 2019, was held last month and presided over CEC retired Justice Sardar Mohammad Raza.

It was attended by the ECP, law and parliamentary affairs secretaries.

The draw decided that the ECP member from Sindh, Abdul Ghaffar Soomro, and the member from Balochistan, retired Justice Shakeel Baloch, would be the ones to retire.

Meanwhile, the Senate Standing Committee on Narcotics Control unanimously elected Senator Sardar Mohammad Shafiq Tareen as its chair.

Senator Tareen’s name was put forward by Senator Haji Momin Khan Afridi and seconded by Senator retired Brig John Kenneth Williams.

The Senate Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation also elected its chair, Senator Kauda Babar. His name was put forward by Senator Kalsoom Parveen and seconded by Senator Rubina Khalid.

The last chair of this committee was Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq, who resigned in order to chair the Senate Standing Committee on Rules of Procedure and Privileges after the death of Senator Sardar Azam Khan Musakhel.

Published in Dawn, January 23rd, 2019