ISLAMABAD, May 15: Though the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) on Tuesday managed to win the election of chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), thanks to the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F), the real battle it faces has yet to come. PPP’s Syed Khursheed Shah was re-elected as the chairman of the 12-member committee having equal representation of the government and the opposition by securing seven votes against five votes polled for Tehmina Daultana of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).
Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri of the opposition JUI-F was not present in the meeting, but through a letter sent to the committee he had declared his support for Mr Shah.
Despite Mr Shah’s re-election as the committee’s chairman, the deadlock between the PPP and the PML-N over the issue of the appointment of the country’s new CEC persists as the new CEC can be appointed only through a two-thirds majority of the committee members. Since there are six members each from both sides, the committee is required to approve the appointment of the CEC with at least eight votes, according to the rules framed by the committee members last year.
Therefore, even if the PPP manages to get the support of the JUI-F in future as well, it will not be able to get the CEC of its choice appointed since the remaining five members belong to the PML-N and all of them are considered to be party loyalists.
The committee members had failed to elect the new chairman on Monday when the PML-N members besides rejecting all the three names proposed by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani for appointment as the CEC had demanded the chairmanship of the committee. The 12-member committee, comprising members from both houses of the parliament with equal representation of the government and the opposition, has recently been reconstituted by National Assembly Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza after the new elections of the Senate held in March.
Soon after his re-election, Syed Khurshid Shah told the reporters that he would write a letter to Opposition Leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan in a day or two asking him to propose the three names for the CEC’s appointment under the constitution since there had been no consensus on the three names that had been provided to the committee by the prime minister.
The PPP leader said his party wanted to hold free, fair and transparent elections in the country, adding the rigging-free elections would be a great service to the nation. He said the committee would try to appoint an impartial person as the CEC with no political affiliation.
When asked about the rule regarding requirement of the two-third majority in the committee, he said, the issue would be resolved in accordance with the constitution.
When contacted, a PML-N member of the committee Zahid Hamid said the rules of the committee were prepared by the members last year and these could only be changed through a two-third majority.
It may be recalled that talking to a group of reporters on Monday, Opposition Leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had said that his party had completed its homework and finalised the names of three persons who could be appointed as the CEC.
Without disclosing the names, he had claimed that all the three persons enjoyed good reputation and no one would be able to raise fingers at them. He further stated none of the three persons belonged to the Punjab province and they had no association with the PML-N whatsoever.
Ch Nisar said the opposition would never agree on the names proposed by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and alleged that the government had proposed the names of controversial persons. He made it clear that he would not hold any consultation with the prime minister after his conviction by the Supreme Court on contempt charges.
The prime minister had disclosed earlier this month that after failure in his efforts for consultation on the names for the CEC, he had sent a list proposing three names to the opposition leader, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.
Later, the PML-N confirmed that it had received a list containing names of Justice (retd) Munir A. Sheikh, Justice (retd) Amirul Mulk Mengal and Justice (retd) Zahid Qurban Alvi from the prime minister for appointment as the CEC.
The office of the CEC had fallen vacant after retirement of Justice (retd) Hamid Ali Mirza on March 23.
Under the 18th Constitution Amendment, the tenure of the CEC has been increased to five years from three years whereas the procedure for the CEC’s appointment has also been changed. The CEC was earlier appointed by the president, but under Article 213 of the Constitution, the prime minister in consultation with the opposition leader in the National Assembly is required to forward three names to a parliamentary committee for confirmation of one of them.
If there is no consensus between the prime minister and the opposition leader on the three names, then under Clause 2B of Article 213, both of them will be required to forward separate lists to the parliamentary committee which will be empowered to confirm one name.
Besides Mr Shah, the members of the committee are Islamuddin Sheikh and Arif Aziz Sheikh of the PPP, Haji Adeel of the ANP, Dr Farooq Sattar (MQM), Ghias Ahmed Mela (PML-Q), Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri (JUI-F) and Raja Zafarul Haq, Zahid Hamid, Tehmina Daultana, Khawaja Muhammad Asif and Lt-Gen (retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch of the PML-N.