ISLAMABAD: Weeks after the government changed its nominees for the vacant positions of members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) from Sindh and Balochistan, the opposition too has slightly amended its list of nominees.
A letter written by Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif to Prime Minister Imran Khan on the last working day before the Eid holidays, a copy of which is available with Dawn, shows that the opposition has picked another name out of those dropped by the government in its revised list taking the total to three nominees.
The opposition’s nominees from Sindh — former Sindh High Court (SHC) Bar Association president Khalid Javed, former SHC judge Abdul Rasool Memon and former Islamabad High Court judge Noorul Haq Qureshi — remain unchanged. Both the former judges were on the original list issued from the office of Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.
The only amendment to the list of nominees for Balochistan is addition of former advocate general for Balochistan Salahuddin Mengal in place of former chief justice of the Balochistan High Court Noor Mohammad Meskanzai.
Positions of members from Sindh and Balochistan lying vacant since Jan 12
The other two nominees are Supreme Court lawyer Shah Mohammad Jatoi and former advocate general for Balochistan Mohammad Rauf Atta.
Salahuddin Mengal, whose name appears on top of the opposition’s list for Balochistan, occupied the same position on the first list proposed by the government and later withdrawn following the opposition’s objection.
Mr Mengal was an advocate general for Balochistan from 2002 to 2011. In 2013, he was appointed prosecutor general of Balochistan. He was appointed chairman of the Press Council of Pakistan in 2016, a position he held until recently.
Shahbaz Sharif has cited various judgements of the superior courts on ‘consultation’ which highlight that the first priority has to be directed to evolving consensus between the ‘consultees’.
“In my opinion, we should proceed in accordance with the aforementioned judgements and make a serious, sincere, and genuine effort to reach consensus by holding mutual discussions regarding the merits and demerits of each candidate. I may add that without such concerted attempt to reach consensus, we would not be fulfilling our constitutional duty under Article 213(2A), which is a prerequisite before referral of names to the parliamentary committee,” the letter reads.
It asserts that it was important that such mutual discussions, in order to protect the repute of the nominees, are held in person or through direct and objective confidential communication. Regretting what he called unsubstantiated allegations and opinions against opposition nominees, Mr Sharif pointed out that one of the opposition’s nominees, who was originally mentioned in foreign minister’s March 11 letter, had now been described as ‘incompetent’.
“I have already conducted preliminary inquiries regarding your nominees and the CVs/profiles now provided by you will help me finalise my views. In the meantime, I request that you consider the following list of nominees, which has been revised in consideration of changes in the status of the original nominees since the consultation process started,” Mr Sharif’s letter reads.
The government had initially proposed the names of Dr Salahuddin Mengal, Mahmud Raza Khan, former additional advocate general for Balochistan and Raja Aamir Abbasi, ex-deputy prosecutor general of the National Accountability Bureau, for their appointment as ECP member from Balochistan, and Mohammad Nadeem Qureshi, ex-member judicial (judge of the customs appellate tribunal); retired justice Abdul Rasool Memon, former registrar of the SHC; and retired justice Noorul Haq Qureshi, a former IHC judge, for Sindh.
But the government had to face severe criticism when Foreign Minister Qureshi sent the nominations and that too through an additional secretary of his ministry. Later, the nomination was withdrawn and Prime Minister Imran Khan in his letter to Shahbaz Sharif had proposed new names for the posts.
The prime minister suggested the names of Amanullah Baloch, former district and sessions judge, Quetta; Munir Kakar, a lawyer; and Mir Naveed Jan Baloch, a businessman and former caretaker minister in the provincial government, for their nomination as a member of the ECP from Balochistan, and 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 of Sindh, for their nomination as ECP member from Sindh.
The government and the opposition had exchanged lists of their nominees during a meeting of the parliamentary panel on appointment of ECP members held on Wednesday. The committee in its meeting to be held on June 19 is most likely to finalise one name each from Sindh and Balochistan for ECP members.
The ECP members from Sindh and Balochistan — Abdul Ghaffar Soomro and retired Justice Shakeel Baloch — had retired on Jan 12 and, under the law, the positions were to be filled within 45 days.
Published in Dawn, June 14th, 2019