IHC suspends presidential notification of two ECP members' appointment

Published November 4, 2019
IHC chief justice tells additional attorney general to inform court of progress by December 5. — AFP/File
IHC chief justice tells additional attorney general to inform court of progress by December 5. — AFP/File

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday suspended a presidential notification of the appointment of two Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) members and directed that the matter be solved by the parliament.

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah said that the matter should be solved quickly as the chief election commissioner was about to retire. Incumbent CEC Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza is retiring on December 7.

"Resolve this matter before December 7 and tell the court," the judge told the additional attorney general.

The high court is hearing a petition filed by Barrister Jahangir Khan Jadoon against the controversial and unilateral appointments of ECP members from Sindh and Balochistan by President Dr Arif Alvi.

According to the petitioner, the criteria for the appointment of chief election commissioner and members had been laid down in the Constitution and the notification issued for the appointment of members on August 22 was in violation of Articles 213 and 218 of the Constitution.

In an earlier hearing of the case, Justice Minallah had said that the matter must be solved by the parliament and that National Assembly speaker and Senate chairman should resolve the issue through consultations.

Following his Justice Minallah's directions, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser and Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani had met with the government's legal team and constitutional experts and had decided that opposition parties will be engaged to resolve the issue.

During today's hearing, the IHC chief justice inquired about the progress of the consultation meetings. The additional attorney general informed him that so far three meetings had been held between Qaiser and Sanjrani but "no progress could be made due to deteriorating [law and order] situation." He was referring to the ongoing anti-government 'Azadi March' sit-in that is being led by Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) Chief Fazlur Rehman and supported by opposition parties.

"The matter which you are referring to should also be solved in the parliament," remarked Justice Minallah.

"How much more time do the National Assembly speaker and Senate chairman require?" the IHC top judge asked, regretting that that ECP was "almost non-functional".

"Four more weeks should be granted," Additional Attorney General Tariq Mehmood Khokhar said.

The judge directed Khokhar to inform the court about progress on the matter by December 5 and adjourned the hearing until then.

Controversial appointments

President Dr Arif Alvi, on August 22, appointed Khalid Mehmood Siddiqui from Sindh and Munir Ahmed Kakar from Balochistan against two the vacant posts previously held by Abdul Ghaffar Soomro and retired Justice Shakeel Baloch from the respective provinces.

The chief election commissioner (CEC) refused to administer the oath to both members-designate and wrote a letter to the law ministry, saying that the appointment of ECP members was not in accordance with relevant articles of the Constitution.

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