President Arif Alvi on Thursday made two appointments to the Election Commission of Pakistan, much to the chagrin of the opposition, which said it was not taken into confidence while making the decision.
Khalid Mehmood Siddiqui has been appointed from Sindh and Munir Ahmed Khan Kakar has been appointed as a member from Balochistan.
The Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs notified the appointment of the two members via a press release issued today.
"In pursuance of paragraph (b) of clause (2) of Article 215 thereof, the President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is pleased to appoint the following persons as Members of the Election Commission of Pakistan," read the handout.
The ECP members from Sindh and Balochistan — Abdul Ghaffar Soomro and retired Justice Shakeel Baloch — had retired in January and, under the law, the positions were to be filled within 45 days.
In March this year — after the government had already missed the deadline of making the appointments — the prime minister had sent three names for each of the vacancies to Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif.
He 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, as nominees from Balochistan.
He 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 of Sindh, as nominees from Sindh.
The move only came after criticism from the opposition as well as from legal circles over the refusal of the prime minister to hold direct mandatory consultation with the opposition leader as required under the Constitution.
The government had also faced criticism when Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had sent the nominations and that too through an additional secretary working in the foreign ministry.
Previously, the government had proposed the names of Dr Salahuddin Mengal, former advocate general for Balochistan; 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 from Balochistan.
It had also proposed the names of 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 Islamabad High Court judge from Sindh.
After the government sent its amended list, the opposition, too, moved to amend its own list of candidates.
The opposition’s amended list included the names of three out of six nominees dropped by the government.
The opposition’s nominees from Sindh — former Sindh High Court (SHC) Bar Association president Khalid Javed, former SHC judge Abdul Rasool Memon and former IHC judge Noorul Haq Qureshi — remained unchanged. Both the former judges were on the original list issued from the office of Foreign Minister Qureshi.
In its slightly amended list for Balochistan, the opposition replaced the name of former chief justice Balochistan High Court Justice (retd) Noor Muhmmad Meskanzai with former Advocate General Balochistan Salahuddin Mengal.
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 June 14. The committee then held a meeting on June 19 with the aim to finalise one name each from Sindh and Balochistan for ECP members.
However, no consensus could be developed and the issue remained in a deadlock, 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 opposition rejected the two new appointments, announcing they would take legal action against the move.
In a conversation with DawnNewsTV, PPP leader Khursheed Shah said that the government had not taken the opposition into confidence before making the announcement and had moreover, appointed their own candidates when there was a clear lack of consensus.
"The appointment of the two ECP members is illegal. It is in violation of the Constitution," said PPP's Khursheed Shah.
"With such a decision, the ECP will no longer remain independent and impartial," he said, adding that the decision raises many questions about the role of the Commission.
"The Constitution has no room for such appointments to be made," said the PPP leader.