Members of the opposition on Wednesday approached the Supreme Court requesting it to "pass an appropriate order" in the wake of an impasse in parliament on the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and two members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
The current CEC is set to retire tomorrow, after which "the ECP will become defunct, thereby halting the entire electoral system of the country", a petition filed by the opposition stated.
The positions of ECP members from Sindh and Balochistan have been lying vacant following the retirement of Abdul Ghaffar Soomro and retired Justice Shakeel Baloch in January with no consultation between the prime minister and the leader of the opposition until recently.
Eleven opposition members have signed the petition to the Supreme Court, namely Akram Khan Durrani, Ahsan Iqbal, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, Nayyar Hussain Bukhari, Farhatullah Babar, Mian Iftikhar Hussain, Muhammad Usman Khan Kakar, Muhammad Tahir Bizinjo, Muhammad Hashim Babar, Muhammad Owais Siddiqui, and Rana Shafiq Khan.
The petition contended that Article 213 of the Constitution is silent over the instance where no consensus is reached in parliament over the appointment. This "will lead to a Constitutional crisis in the country," it argued.
"The only viable option left would be to approach this August Court," it added.
The petition noted that although the terms of two members of the ECP had ended on January 26, the commission had been functional with the presence of the CEC and the two members. "In the near future the situation will change altogether," it said.
Meanwhile, science and technology minister Fawad Chaudhry was of the view that things were running smoothly between the government and the opposition. "We hope that the gap remaining will also be bridged," said the minister in a post on Twitter.
"Politicians should be in agreement on important reforms and issues. These nominations will mark an important achievement," he said.
A three-member opposition committee to finalise the names for the CEC and two members of the ECP from Sindh and Balochistan had been formed on November 26, during a multi-party conference (MPC) hosted by the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F).
The committee comprised PML-N’s Ahsan Iqbal, PPP secretary general Nayyar Bokhari and convener of the opposition’s Rehbar Committee and senior JUI-F leader Akram Durrani.
On November 30, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif through a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan had proposed three names for the office of the CEC, urging the premier to make “serious, sincere and genuine efforts to evolve a consensus”.
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.
A deadlock, however, has persisted with contradictory claims from both the government and the opposition.
While sources in the ruling PTI claimed that a consensus had been reached and the names of ECP members from Sindh and Balochistan were likely to be announced today before the National Assembly session, sources in the opposition refuted the claim.
When contacted, PML-N secretary general Ahsan Iqbal said both nominees of the PTI for the ECP member from Balochistan were not acceptable as one of them was a businessman and the other a UNDP consultant. He said any progress was possible only if the government showed some flexibility.