Just as the ruling coalition managed to get its man at the helm of a parliamentary panel to appoint a new chief election commissioner (CEC), the opposition rolled out its nominees for the constitutional post.
The 12-member Parliamentary Committee on the Appointment of CEC elected Religious Affairs Minister Khurshid Shah as its head after Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F)’s Ghafoor Haideri – one of the six opposition members – voted in his favour.
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), meanwhile, finalised three names for the post which will be formally put before the committee by Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, the opposition leader in the National Assembly, sources told The Express Tribune.
According to sources, PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif, after consulting his party’s legal cell and lawyers, approved the names of Acting CEC Justice Shakirullah Jan, Justice (retd) Ghulam Rabbani and Justice (retd) Sardar Raza Khan.
The PPP had proposed the names of Justice (retd) Munir A Sheikh, Justice (retd) Amirul Mulk Mengal and Justice (retd) Qurban Alvi for the crucial post which could ultimately decide the fate of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani who has been convicted by the apex court in a contempt case.
Parliamentary meeting proceedings
On Tuesday, the body rejected PML-N’s demand to rotate the chairmanship between the government and the opposition.
In the bi-cameral panel, the PML-N has five and the JUI-F one member, while three belong to the PPP and one each from its three coalition partners — Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Awami National Party and Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid.
JUI-F’s Haideri, who is currently hospitalised, did not attend the meeting and casted his vote through a letter, which swung the balance in favour of the ruling coalition.
“It’s not a big deal. Election of the chairman doesn’t really make any difference. The real issue is whether the committee can appoint a new CEC or not,” said PML-N member Lt Gen (retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch.
The PPP and the PML-N have different interpretations of the procedure of appointing CEC laid down in the 20th Constitutional Amendment passed by parliament earlier this year.
The ruling party says the committee needs to approve one of the three names sent to it with a simple majority. It means the PPP can have a candidate of its choice with the JUI-F voting in its favour.
However, the opposition thinks otherwise.
Chaudhry Nisar has said that according to Rules of Procedures and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly 2007, the committee is required to approve a name with a two-thirds majority, and not simple majority.
According to PML-N’s strategy, the party wants any one of the names it has nominated for the post. They said that according to the Constitution, only the committee could decide the final name but they did not trust JUI-F’s Haidri. Keeping that in mind, sources said that the party has decided focus on the rules of the procedure’s two-thirds majority clause.
Although the PPP has apparently failed to succeed in appointing Justice Munir Sheikh as the new CEC, it has devised another strategy.
According to sources, since the coalition’s six members plus JUI-F’s vote does not make two-thirds majority, the PPP has decided to amend the rule of procedure in the coming week.
And for this purpose, according to sources, the government has asked the law ministry to prepare a draft for amendment.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 16th, 2012.
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