ISLAMABAD: Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shahbaz Sharif through a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan has proposed three names for the office of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), urging Mr Khan to make “serious, sincere and genuine efforts to evolve a consensus”.
In his letter, Mr Sharif suggested the names of two former bureaucrats Nasir Mehmood Khosa and Akhlaq Ahmed Tarar and former ambassador to the US Jalil Abbas Jillani for the key constitutional post of the CEC, a position that will fall vacant on Dec 6 after completion of the five-year term of the incumbent CEC retired Justice Sardar Mohammad Raza.
Nasir Khosa had served as federal finance secretary and chief secretary of Punjab and Balochistan provinces. In 2013, he was appointed as the executive director in World Bank by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
Before last year’s general elections, Mr Khosa was nominated by the now ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) for the position of caretaker Punjab chief minister. However, the PTI unceremoniously withdrew his name after which he recused himself.
He is a brother of Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa.
Imran, Shahbaz also send names of their nominees for ECP members from Sindh and Balochistan to NA speaker, Senate chairman
Mr Tarrar had also served on various key posts in the federal government.
Through another letter addressed to National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser and Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, Mr Sharif suggested three names each for the vacant positions of the members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) from Sindh and Balochistan.
PM Khan, too, nominated three persons each for the ECP posts through a letter to the NA speaker and the Senate chairman for consideration by the parliamentary committee.
In his letter to the premier, a copy of which was released to the media by the PML-N, Mr Sharif stated the “distinguished persons” who had been nominated by him were “eminently qualified” to be appointed as the CEC.
Interestingly, Mr Sharif wrote the letter to the PM on Nov 25, a day before the opposition parties had met in Islamabad and announced formation of a three-member committee to jointly suggest the names for the CEC and two ECP members. However, the letter by the opposition leader proposing the names of ECP members was sent to the NA speaker and the Senate chairman on Nov 29, a few days after the multiparty conference in Islamabad.
Mr Sharif in his letter stated that the posts of the two ECP members were still vacant and the CEC was also about to retire on Dec 6. The letter said the ECP would become “dysfunctional” if the CEC and one or more ECP members were not appointed.
According to the opposition leader, the consultative process for the CEC should have been initiated by the PM much earlier. “However, in an attempt to avoid possible discontinuity in the functioning of the ECP, which is a constitutional body, I am taking the initiative after a long wait with a hope to hear from you,” said Mr Sharif in the letter addressed to PM Khan.
While the names suggested by the opposition leader had been in circulation in the media since Saturday morning, Mr Khan told a news conference in the evening that he had not seen the names proposed by the opposition till then.
The PML-N leader, who is presently in London with his ailing brother Nawaz Sharif, stated the opposition and the ruling parties needed to carry out “consensus-oriented consultation” on the matter in accordance with the “binding judgements” of the Supreme Court. He regretted that “unfortunately” no consensus-oriented consultation took place in the case of two ECP members’ appointment that resulted in a deadlock in the parliamentary committee.
“Subsequently, the unilateral notification issued by the president [Arif Alvi] was declared unconstitutional by the CEC, besides being suspended by the Islamabad High Court,” the opposition leader recalled.
“The deadlock has not yet been resolved,” he warned.
Mr Sharif said, “I will strongly urge that this time we must endeavour to avoid any such impasse by making serious, sincere and genuine effort to evolve a consensus.”
Through another letter sent to the NA speaker and the Senate chairman, Mr Sharif nominated Nisar Durrani, retired Justice Abdul Rasul Memon and Aurangzeb Haq as ECP member from Sindh.
The opposition leader proposed the names of senior lawyer Shah Mohammad Jatoi, former advocate general Mohammad Rauf Atta and Raheela Durrani for ECP member from Balochistan.
The suggestions for the ECP members were sent in response to a letter from Mr Qaiser and Mr Sanjrani, which they had sent to Mr Sharif on Nov 5 in line with the verdict of the Islamabad High Court that had referred the matter back to the parliament.
Also, PM Khan on Saturday sent his recommendations for the ECP members from Sindh and Balochistan to the NA speaker and the Senate chairman.
For the post of ECP member from Sindh, Mr Khan nominated retired Justice Sadiq Bhatti, retired Justice Noorul Haq Qureshi and Abdul Jabbar Qureshi, according to a copy of his letter.
He recommended Dr Faiz Kakar, Naveed Jan Baloch, a businessman and a former caretaker minister in the provincial government, and former district and sessions judge, Quetta, Amanullah Baloch for the office of the ECP member from Balochistan.
Previously, too, Mr Khan had suggested the names of Naveed Jan Baloch and Amanullah Baloch for the office of the ECP member from Balochistan.
The name of retired Justice Noorul Haq Qureshi for ECP member from Sindh, which has been proposed this time by PM Khan, had previously been suggested by Mr Sharif.
Similarly, Mr Sharif’s nominee retired Justice Abdul Rasool Memon had been earlier suggested by the ruling party when Mr Khan had initiated the consultative process through Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, a move that had been rejected by the opposition, forcing the prime minister to finally start correspondence with Mr Sharif.
The positions of ECP members from Sindh and Balochistan have been lying vacant since the retirement of Abdul Ghaffar Soomro and retired Justice Shakeel Baloch in January.
Under the law, the positions were required to be filled within 45 days but the legal deadline passed without any consultation between the PM and the opposition leader. Even after belated commencement of an indirect consultation process, a controversy surrounded the appointment of ECP members as President Arif Alvi in a unilateral decision on Aug 22 appointed both nominees from the PTI’s list as ECP members.
The crisis deepened further when next day Khalid Mehmood Siddiqui and Munir Ahmad Kakar, appointed by the president as members from Sindh and Balochistan, respectively, went to the ECP to assume the charge and the CEC refused to administer the oath of office to them, saying their appointment was against the Constitution.
Their appointment was finally challenged in the IHC by the parliamentary committee members belonging to the PML-N. The IHC observed that the constitutional provisions had not been followed in making the appointments of the two members and suspended the notification before referring the matter back to the parliament.
Published in Dawn, December 1st, 2019