ISLAMABAD: After wasting too much time in correspondence through their nominees and a week after receiving a direct letter from Prime Minister Imran Khan, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif on Tuesday finally proposed names for the appointment of members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) from Balochistan and Sindh.
In a seven-page letter sent to the prime minister, Mr Sharif termed the first two letters sent to him by Mr Khan through an official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and his secretary a violation of the Constitution and then suggested six names for the two vacant positions in the ECP in response to the letter sent to him by the prime minister on April 1.
Mr Sharif has proposed the names of Shah Mohammad Jatoi, president of the Balochistan High Court Bar Association; Mohammad Noor Meskanzai, former chief justice of the Balochistan High Court; and Mohammad Rauf Ata, a former advocate general for Balochistan, for the vacant post of the ECP member from the province.
For the appointment of ECP member from Sindh, the opposition leader has proposed the names of Abdul Rasool Memon, a retired judge of the Sindh High Court (SHC); Khalid Javed, a former president of the SHC Bar Association; and Noorul Haq Qureshi, a retired judge of the Islamabad High Court.
The prime minister and the opposition leader will likely have to send the proposed names to the relevant parliamentary committee for consideration
“It is gratifying to note that you have at last initiated the consultative process. However, mere communication of proposed names is not sufficient,” writes Mr Sharif in his letter addressed directly to the prime minister.
“We need to carry out consensus-oriented consultation in accordance with the judgements of the Supreme Court of Pakistan,” he said. “I sincerely hope that we can avoid further legal controversy and achieve consensus on the names to be forwarded to the parliamentary committee.”
Mr Sharif has explained that the purpose of consulting the opposition leader essentially “is to pacify the apprehensions of the political opposition in the country regarding its possible victimisation and persecution and that purpose cannot be served if the opinion of the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly in respect of a proposed appointment is brushed aside or bulldozed which would surely be incentive-incompatible”.
“Needless to state, I am fully conscious of my constitutional responsibility and duty as a consultee under Article 213(2A) of the Constitution as well as of the delay that has already taken place in this matter. I am giving all due consideration to the names now recommended by you and will firm up my views shortly,” writes Mr Sharif.
The prime minister has suggested the names of Amanullah Baloch, ex-district and sessions judge, Quetta; Munir Kakar, a lawyer; and Mir Naveed Jan Baloch, a businessman and a former caretaker minister in the provincial government, for their nomination as a member of the ECP from Balochistan.
The prime minister has proposed the names of Khalid Mehmood Siddiqui, a lawyer; retired Justice Farrukh Zia Sheikh, a former judge of the Sindh High Court; and Iqbal Mehmood, retired inspector-general Sindh, for their nomination as a member of the ECP from Sindh.
Since there seems to be no possibility of a meeting between the two leaders, it is likely that they will now have to send these names to the bipartisan and bicameral Parliamentary Committee on the Appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and Members of the ECP headed by federal Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari to finalise the names.
ECP members Abdul Ghaffar Soomro and retired justice Shakeel Baloch from Sindh and Balochistan, respectively, retired on Jan 26 and their replacements under the Constitution should have been appointed by March 12 — the constitutional deadline that the government has missed.
Published in Dawn, April 10th, 2019