Deadlock on appointment of ECP members persists

Updated 25 Jun 2019

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Government, opposition representatives unable to reach consensus over members from Sindh, Balochistan. — APP/File
Government, opposition representatives unable to reach consensus over members from Sindh, Balochistan. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: A fresh deadlock ensued on Monday over the appointment of members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), with both the government and the opposition insisting on having a member of their choice from Sindh and giving the right to pick a member from Balochistan to the other.

The 12-member parliamentary committee on the appointment of ECP members met with Human Rights Minister Dr Shirin Mazari in the chair, but failed to reach a consensus following a previous meeting last week.

Though the Constitution is silent on the way forward in case of such a stalemate in a parliamentary committee with equal representation of the government and the opposition, both sides talked of the matter probably going to the Supreme Court (SC). Dr Mazari of the PTI, who heads the panel, and Mushahid Ullah Khan, parliamentary leader of the PML-N, who is one of the four members of the committee drawn from the upper house, appeared somewhat confused about the numbers of votes required. Constitution experts believe that a simple majority is required for the nominees for their name to be finalised,

Government, opposition representatives unable to reach consensus over members from Sindh, Balochistan

Talking to reporters after the meeting, Dr Mazari said that no decision could be taken as none of the nominees could get a two-thirds majority. “We suggested a formula that was not accepted by the opposition”, she said, explaining that now, the minutes of the meeting would go to the prime minister’s office and it would be up to him how matters should proceed. She said that either fresh lists from the opposition leader would be sought, or the matter would be referred to the SC. “We will proceed in accordance with the law”, she elaborated. In answer to a question, she said there was a judgement of the SC that in a situation when a consensus could not be reached, it can intervene. Asked to explain the ‘formula’ proposed by the government, she said that “We had asked for accepting our name for the member from Sindh and we would accept their name from Balochistan”. She was of the view that it was not necessary for a party having dominance in a province to have an ECP member of its choice.

Mushahid Ullah Khan of the PML-N too said the constitutional way would be adopted. “Nobody could get the two-thirds votes required and the matter will now go to the SC”, he remarked. When it was pointed out by a questioner that there was no mention in the Constitution of the matter going to the SC, he first asked as to what there was in the Constitution, and then said that whatever is written in therein would be followed. He said the opposition had proposed that an ECP member be from Balochistan where the government party is ruling, and leave the position of the ECP member from Sindh to the opposition, but an agreement was not reached.

The ECP members from Sindh and Balochistan — Abdul Ghaffar Soomro and Justice (retd) Shakeel Baloch retired in January and under the law others were to be appointed within 45 days. The government had initially proposed the names of Dr Salahuddin Mengal, Mahmud Raza Khan (former additional advocate general for Balochistan) and Raja Aamir Abbasi (former deputy prosecutor-general of the Natio­nal Accountability Bureau) for appointment as the ECP member from Balochistan.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2019