Filling ECP’s vacant slots a tricky business

Published: April 9, 2012

Members ask PM to nominate three people for secretary’s post. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: The chief election commissioner’s (CECs) retirement, followed by the abrupt exit of a key man in the commission – its secretary – has vacated the two most important slots in the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

Not only have the two men left a challenging legacy for their successors, but finding appropriate replacements that are acceptable to all stakeholders, including major political parties, also presents a challenge for the government.

While selecting a new secretary is solely at the prime minister’s discretion, this appointment will prove to be tricky for Yousaf Raza Gilani in this volatile political environment, especially when the next general elections are around the corner.

Sources in the ECP claimed that four members of the commission have sent a letter to the prime minister through the cabinet division to nominate three people for the slot and give them a choice to select one name from the premier’s nominees.

CEC Justice (retd) Hamid Ali Khan retired on March 23 while secretary Ishtiaq Ahmed Khan retired on March 30 after expiration of his one month notice to the government served in protest against alleged intervention of some state functionaries.

During the last three years, major reforms were introduced in the ECP. One of them was launching computerised electoral rolls based on computerised national identity card, which aimed to minimise the chances of bogus entries.

Khan had also introduced a new trend of consultation with all the stakeholders including political parties.

For ensuring fair and credible elections and to avoid the possibility of rigging, the ECP decided to use special imported paper with watermark and non-market specifications for ballot papers during national, provincial and local government elections and using magnetised ink for thumb impressions to prevent casting of bogus votes.

In the next elections, new computerised voters’ lists will be used without pictures; however, the presiding officer will have lists which contain pictures of each voter.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 9th, 2012.

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