ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is complete after a little over a year’s hiatus as the new chief election commissioner (CEC) and two ECP members from Sindh and Balochistan took the oath of their offices on Monday.
Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed administered the oath to Mohammad Jalal Sikandar Sultan as the new Chief Election Commissioner at a ceremony on Monday.
Judges of the Supreme Court, the attorney general, officers of the ECP, Supreme Court Federal Judicial Academy and Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan, prominent lawyers and law officers attended the swearing-in ceremony.
Later, Nisar Durrani and Shah Mohammad Jatoi were sworn in as ECP members from Sindh and Balochistan, respectively.
Deadlock between govt, opposition over appointments persisted for over a year
The oath to the new members was administered by Chief Election Commissioner Mohammad Jalal Sikandar Sultan.
The ECP became dysfunctional after the retirement of retired Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza as CEC on Dec 5 last year. Abdul Ghaffar Soomro and retired Justice Shakeel Baloch retired as ECP members from Sindh and Balochistan on Jan 26 last year.
Jalal Sikandar Sultan and two ECP members from Sindh and Balochistan were picked by a parliamentary panel having equal representation of lawmakers from the treasury and opposition benches with consensus on Jan 21.
Earlier, the two sides had been in a deadlock over the appointment of two ECP members for months. Even before the retirement of the former CEC, the opposition had linked the appointment with the government proposing the names for CEC and had decided that the decision on all three appointments will be taken in one go.
The CEC and two members from Sindh and Balochistan will be part of the new team that will conduct the 2023 general elections.
The term of two members of the commission — retired justice Altaf Ibrahim Qureshi (Punjab) and retired Justice Irshad Qaiser (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) — will expire in June next year and their successors will complete the new team for next general polls.
The new CEC is the first retired bureaucrat to have ever been appointed as the head of the top electoral body. Mr Sultan, who retired only a couple of months ago as railways secretary, enjoys a good reputation of being an upright officer.
He had also served as petroleum secretary and chief secretary of both Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. He was director general (passports) when Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan was the interior minister. He served as provincial secretary of communications and works, services and general administration and local government secretary before being appointed additional chief secretary of Punjab for a brief period.
Son of an army officer, Mr Sultan is the son-in-law of Saeed Mehdi, who also served as principal secretary to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. His wife Rabab Sikandar is a serving grade-21 officer of Pakistan Customs.
The two ECP members from Sindh and Balochistan are first from among the lawyers to be appointed as ECP members.
Meanwhile, the Islamabad High Court on Monday disposed of petitions filed against the appointment of two members of the Election Commission of Pakistan as the court was informed that both the government and the opposition had amicably resolved the matter related to the appointment of CEC and ECP members.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah observed that the court had left the matter to the wisdom of elected representatives since the people had given them the mandate to make such decisions.
He said that the credit went to parliament for resolving the dispute on its own. He further said that parliament is the supreme institution and, therefore, the court referred the issue to lawmakers with an expectation that it would be settled amicably.
Malik Asad also contributed to the report
Published in Dawn, January 28th, 2020