ISLAMABAD: Amid fierce political rivalry between the government and the opposition, Prime Minister Imran Khan has proposed six names for two posts of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and sought consent of Shehbaz Sharif, Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly, to meet the constitutional requirement.

According to Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, Prime Minister Khan has written a letter to Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz president Shehbaz Sharif, asking him to submit a response to the proposal “at the earliest”.

In a tweet, the information minister shared a copy of the letter written by the premier, saying PM Khan had suggested three names each for the two ECP member posts representing Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces.

The ECP, he said, would be able to make appointments after opposition’s response to the prime minister’s letter.

Punjab, KP seats lying vacant since July 26

The minister later told Dawn that if Mr Sharif did not agree with any of the six names, he would have to give three names each for the two slots. “But in that case the names proposed by the prime minister and those referred by the opposition leader will be sent to the parliamentary committee for a final decision,” he said.

Nominees

According to the letter, Prime Minister Khan has proposed the names of Ahsan Mahboob, ex-officer of the Police Service of Pakistan; Raja Amer Khan, an advocate of the Supreme Court; and Dr Syed Pervaiz Abbas, a former officer of the Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS), for the vacant post of ECP member from Punjab.

For the appointment of ECP member from KP, the premier has suggested the names of retired Justice Ikramullah Khan, former PAS officer Faridullah Khan and Supreme Court advocate Muzammil Khan.

Under the Constitution, the premier is required to initiate consultations with the opposition leader for jointly recommending a panel of three consensus nominees per vacancy for confirmation of one of them by the parliamentary committee.

In case there is no agreement, the prime minister and the opposition leader are supposed to separately send three names each to the committee having equal representation from the treasury and opposition benches. The law mandates that no ECP position should stay vacant for more than 45 days.

Due to fierce political rivalry between Mr Khan and Mr Sharif, they are currently not in a position to sit together for consultation on important national issues. Therefore, Mr Chaudhry ruled out the possibility of any direct consultation between the two, saying it might be done through correspondence.

The minister’s remarks came amid discussions in political and legal circles regarding a possible delay in the appointments after the retirement of two ECP members on July 26 on completion of their five-year term.

Earlier in 2019, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-led coalition government had missed the constitutional deadline of 45 days for the appointment of two ECP members from Sindh and Balochistan when PM Khan refused to hold a direct and mandatory consultation with the opposition leader on the issue. However, when the issue landed at the Islamabad High Court, the prime minister consulted Mr Sharif through some correspondence.

It was repeated last year at the time of Chief Election Commissioner’s (CEC’s) appointment.

Under Articles 213 and 218 of the Constitution, the prime minister in consultation with the opposition leader forwards three names for the appointment of a CEC or an ECP member to a parliamentary committee for confirmation of one name.

The parliamentary committee, constituted by the National Assembly Speaker, draws half of its members from the treasury benches and other half from opposition parties, based on their strength in the parliament, to be nominated by their respective parliamentary leaders.

In case, a consensus cannot be reached between the prime minister and the opposition leader, the law says each will forward separate lists to the parliamentary committee for the hearing and finalisation of names.

Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2021

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