ISLAMABAD: A two-member bench of the Supreme Court formed to hear a petition against the appointment of two members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) stood dissolved on Thursday after the judges, Justice Manzoor Malik and Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, recused themselves from hearing the case.
Justice Maqbool Baqar has referred the matter to the chief justice of Pakistan for the constitution of a new bench.
The parliamentary affairs ministry had notified the appointment of Khalid Mehmood Siddiqui and Munir Ahmed Kakar as ECP members from Sindh and Balochistan respectively after President Arif Alvi’s approval.
The appointments came seven months after Abdul Ghaffar Soomro and Justice (retd) Shakeel Baloch — the ECP members from Sindh and Balochistan — retired in January this year.
However, Chief Election Commissioner Sardar Raza Khan had refused to take oath from the two new members nominated by the government.
The commissioner in his letter to Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs had written that the new members were not appointed in accordance with Articles 213 and 214 of the constitution.
Islamabad-based lawyer Jahangir Khan Jadoon on August 27 challenged the appointment of the ECP Sindh and Balochistan members in the Islamabad High Court and requested it to stop implementation of notification issued by Ministry for Parliamentary Affairs.
ECP Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fatah Muhammad in a three-page reply adopted the stance that appointment of these members is in violation of the Constitution’s Article 213 as the procedure defined in the Constitution was not followed.
The Aam Log Ittehad Party has also challenged the appointment of the ECP members in Sindh High Court. The newly-appointed ECP members approached the Supreme Court for the transfer of the case to Islamabad
The government had defended its decision of unilaterally nominating the two ECP members, saying President Dr Arif Alvi made the appointments in line with the Constitution and on the recommendations of the institutions concerned.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Azam Swati expressed his disappointment over the election commissioner’s move, saying that the ECP was one of the country’s most important institutions and it was necessary to fill the vacant slots.
“The government notified the appointment of the two ECP members in line with procedure laid out in the constitution,” he maintained.
“We are sure that there will not be any crisis and the process of appointing the ECP members will be completed soon,” he added.
Criticising the move, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) senior leader Senator Raza Rabbani said the government had unilaterally appointed its own recommended candidates in violation of the constitution.