ISLAMABAD: In a significant development, fresh names for the appointment of the members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) from Sindh and Balochistan have been sought from Prime Minister Imran Khan and Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif.
The positions are lying vacant since January following retirement of Abdul Ghaffar Soomro and retired Justice Shakeel Baloch, ECP members from Sindh and Balochistan, respectively.
Sources told Dawn that Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani and National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaisar in a joint letter have asked the prime minister and the opposition leader to send three names each for both the positions.
After receiving the names, the same will be sent to the parliamentary committee on appointment of ECP members.
The move comes less than three weeks before the retirement of Chief Election Commissioner retired Justice Sardar Mohammad Raza.
Move comes less than three weeks before CEC’s retirement
Under the law, the positions were required to be filled within 45 days, but the legal deadline passed without even the initiation of consultation between the prime minister and the opposition leader. And even after belated commencement of the indirect consultation process, a controversy arose as a letter proposing names from the government side had emanated from the Foreign Office and not from the prime minister’s house.
Days after the simmering controversy, the prime minister reconsidered the decision, withdrew the previous nominations and proposed three names each for the two positions to the opposition leader afresh.
The 12 names received from the government and the opposition were sent to the parliamentary committee on appointment of ECP members, where both sides having equal representation tried their hard to have a member from Sindh of their choice and offered each other to have a member from Balochistan as they like.
The committee could not reach a decision, leaving many to wonder what next as the Constitution is silent in case of such a stalemate.
On Aug 22, President Dr Arif Alvi had appointed both nominees from the PTI’s list as members of the ECP. But the crisis deepened when next day Khalid Mehmood Siddiqui and Munir Ahmad Kakar, appointed as members from Sindh and Balochistan, respectively, went to the ECP to assume the charge and Chief Election Commissioner retired Justice Sardar Mohammad Raza refused to administer the oath of office to them, saying their appointment was against the Constitution.
The CEC’s refusal to administer oath to the ‘unconstitutionally’ appointed members was termed unconstitutional by Law Minister Barrister Farogh Naseem, who argued that the CEC had no authority to examine validity of government notifications.
The appointment of two ECP members was challenged in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) by two members of the parliamentary committee belonging to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.
The IHC, while observing that the constitutional provisions had not been followed, had referred the matter to the parliament and later suspended the notification of appointment of the two members.
Following the IHC order, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani approached NA Speaker Asad Qaisar to find out a solution and now a letter signed by them has been sent to the prime minister and the opposition leader.
Published in Dawn, November 15th, 2019