ECP member from Punjab made acting chief commissioner

December 07, 2019

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ISLAMABAD: Member of the Election Commission of Pakistan retired Justice Irshad Qaiser administers the oath to retired Justice Altaf Ibrahim Qureshi as the acting chief election commissioner on Friday.—Online
ISLAMABAD: Member of the Election Commission of Pakistan retired Justice Irshad Qaiser administers the oath to retired Justice Altaf Ibrahim Qureshi as the acting chief election commissioner on Friday.—Online

ISLAMABAD: Retired Justice Altaf Ibrahim Qureshi, a member of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) from Punjab, on Friday took the oath as acting Chief Election Commissioner (CEC).

The oath was administered by ECP member from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) retired Justice Irshad Qaiser under Article 217 of the Constitution, a day after Sardar Muhammad Raza retired as CEC after completing his five-year term in office.

Interestingly, after the retirement of the CEC, the ECP is left with only two members — both have been unconstitutionally appointed.

Article 207 (2) of the Constitution reads: “A person who has held office as judge of the Supreme Court or of a high court shall not hold any office of profit in the service of Pakistan, not being a judicial or quasi judicial office or the office of Chief Election Commissioner or of Chairman or member of a law commission or of Chairman or member of the Council of Islamic Ideology, before the expiration of two years after he has ceased to hold that office.”

Justice Irshad Qaiser became the first woman member of the ECP within 45 days of her retirement as a judge of the Peshawar High Court on June 14, 2016.

Similarly, Justice Altaf Ibrahim Qureshi retired as a judge of the Lahore High Court on March 5, 2015, and thus had more than seven months to go before the completion of the two-year post-retirement period when he was appointed to the Election Commission in July 2016.

Under Article 218 of the Constitution, the commission consists of Chief Election Commissioner and four members — one from each province.

According to Article 219 of the Constitution, the commission is charged with the duty of preparing electoral rolls for elections to the National Assembly and provincial assemblies, and revising such rolls annually, organising and conducting election to the Senate or to fill casual vacancies in a provincial assembly, appointing Election Tribunal, holding general elections to the National Assembly, provincial assemblies and the local governments; and other such functions as may be specified by an Act of Majlis-i-Shoora (parliament).

The currently dysfunctional ECP cannot perform these functions.

A meeting of the parliamentary committee on appointment of ECP members ended in a deadlock last week, with the opposition insisting that the government first come up with the names of nominees for the post of chief election commissioner.

The demand came when retired justice Sardar Muhammad Raza was still holding the office, though the Constitution provides 45 days for the appointment of CEC and ECP members after their offices fall vacant.

Now after the government has proposed three names for the position, the parliamentary committee on appointment of CEC and ECP members will meet on Monday (Dec 9) and consider the three names each proposed by the government and the opposition for the positions of CEC and ECP members from Sindh and Balochistan.

While the chief election commissioner retired only a day before, the positions of two ECP members have been vacant for more than 10 months.

Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2019