ISLAMABAD: In a move immediately rejected by the opposition, the government on Thursday appointed its nominees as members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) from Sindh and Balochistan.
The Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs issued a notification, a copy of which is available with Dawn, stating that President Dr Arif Alvi had appointed Khalid Mahmood Siddiqui and Munir Ahmad Khan Kakar as ECP members from Sindh and Balochistan, respectively.
When contacted, senior leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party Syed Khursheed Shah said the government had no legal mandate to fill these constitutional posts on its own. He said it would put a big question mark on the ECP which was already facing serious allegations.
Observing that appointment of “hand-picked persons in an unconstitutional manner” would raise serious questions, he said: “The opposition rejects the appointments and a decision on the way forward would be taken with mutual consultation.”
Rejecting the move, opposition says govt has no legal mandate to fill these constitutional posts on its own
Answering a question about the available options, Mr Shah said the appointments could be challenged in a court of law and the issue could be debated in parliament.
Sources in the opposition said that during the last meeting of the parliamentary committee on appointment of ECP members, the government had threatened to take a one-sided decision if the opposition showed no flexibility.
The last two meetings of the committee ended in a stalemate with both the government and the opposition insisting on having a member of their choice from Sindh and giving the option of picking a member from Balochistan to the other.
Though the Constitution is silent on the way forward in case of such a stalemate in the parliamentary committee with equal representation of the government and the opposition, both sides have hinted at approaching the Supreme Court on the issue.
Abdul Ghaffar Soomro and retired Justice Shakeel Baloch, ECP members from Sindh and Balochistan, retired in January and under the law their replacements 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 the appointment of one of them as ECP member from Balochistan. For Sindh, the following names had been proposed: Mohammad Nadeem Qureshi, former judge of the customs appellate tribunal, retired Justice Abdul Rasool Memon, former registrar of Sindh High Court (SHC), and retired Justice Noorul Haq Qureshi, a former judge of the Islamabad High Court (IHC).
But the government was severely criticised when Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi sent the nominations through an additional secretary of his ministry. Later, the nominations were withdrawn and Prime Minister Imran Khan, in his letter to opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif, proposed new names for the posts, which included Amanullah Baloch, former district and sessions judge of Quetta, Munir Kakar, a lawyer, and Mir Naveed Jan Baloch, a businessman and former caretaker minister in the provincial government, for their nomination as ECP member from Balochistan. For ECP member from Sindh, the following names were put forward: Khalid Mehmood Siddiqui, a lawyer, retired Justice Farrukh Zia Sheikh, a former judge of the SHC, and Iqbal Mehmood, former inspector general of Sindh.
The opposition’s amended list includes the names of three out of six nominees dropped by the government. The opposition’s nominees from Sindh — former SHC Bar Association president Khalid Javed, former SHC judge Abdul Rasool Memon and former IHC judge Noorul Haq Qureshi — remain 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 of Balochistan High Court Noor Mohammad Meskanzai with former advocate general for Balochistan Salahuddin Mengal. The name was later dropped following objection over his age.
Published in Dawn, August 23rd, 2019
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