Parliamentary committee asked to finalise ECP member names today

Published: December 2, 2019
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ISLAMABAD: The custodians of the two houses of parliament have warned that if the parliamentary committee fails to evolve consensus on the makeup of Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday, then they would use their discretion and finalise the names of members from Sindh and Balochistan.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, in a letter to Senate Chairperson Sadiq Sanjrani and National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser, has proposed the names of Justice (retd) Sadiq Bhatti, Justice (retd) Noorul Haq Qureshi, and Abdul Jabbar Qureshi for the vacant post of ECP member from Sindh, while he has recommended the names of Dr Faiz Kakar, Naveed Jan Baloch, and Amanullah Baloch for ECP member from Balochistan.

In the meanwhile, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif has also written a letter to the custodians of the two houses suggesting the names of Nisar Durrani, Justice (retd) Abdul Rasul Memon, and Aurangzeb Haq for the vacant slot of ECP member from Sindh. He has also proposed the names of Shah Mohammad Jatoi, Mohammad Rauf Atta, and Raheela Durrani for ECP member from Balochistan.

According to Article 218 (2B) of the Constitution, four [ECP] members, one from each province, each of whom shall be a person who has been a judge of a high court or has been a senior civil servant or is a technocrat and is not more than sixty-five years of age, to be appointed by the president in the manner provided for appointment of the Commissioner in clauses (2A) and (2B) of Article 213.

Article 213 (2A) says: “The Prime Minister shall in consultation with the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, forward three names for appointment of the Commissioner to a Parliamentary Committee for hearing and confirmation of any one person.”

And Article 213 (2B) says that the Parliamentary Committee to be constituted by the Speaker shall comprise 50% members from the treasury benches and 50% from the opposition parties, based on their strength in parliament, to be nominated by the respective parliamentary leaders.

The Parliamentary Committee – headed by Minister for Human Right Shireen Mazari – is scheduled to meet on Tuesday to narrow down differences and develop consensus on the names of members from Sindh and Balochistan.

Senate Chairman Sanjrani and National Assembly Speaker Qaiser on Monday expressed their satisfaction over the progress made on the issue thus far. At the same time, they warned that if the Parliamentary Committee could not develop consensus, then they would pick out the names and send them to the president and the Islamabad High Court (IHC).

In a meeting at the Parliament House, they voiced hope that the matter would be resolved amicably. “The names recommended by the prime minister and the opposition leader have been sent to the Parliamentary Committee which will deliberate over them,” said the Senate chairman. Speaker Qaiser added that the “deadlock will end soon”. They agreed to promote consultations among the political parties for smooth functioning of the two houses of parliament.

The positions of ECP members from Sindh and Balochistan have been lying vacant since the retirement of Abdul Ghaffar Soomro and Justice (retd) Shakeel Baloch in January.

The slots were required to be filled within 45 days under the law, but the deadline passed without the mandatory consultation between the prime minister and the opposition leader. Though indirect consultation started, but a row erupted after President Arif Alvi unilaterally appointed both PTI’s nominees – Khalid Mehmood Siddiqui (Sindh) and Munir Ahmed Kakar (Balochistan) – against the positions on Aug 22.

The appointments were, however, challenged in the IHC by the Parliamentary Committee members from the PML-N. The IHC suspended the notification while ruling that the constitutional provisions had not been followed. It referred the matter to parliament.

In his order, Chief Justice Athar Minallah said: “The worthy chairman of the Senate and the worthy speaker of the National Assembly hold their respective offices as politically impartial personalities. They as custodians of the two respective houses of Majlis-i-Shoora are expected to play an effective role to ensure that the Constitution is upheld and the Election Commission of Pakistan, one of the most important constitutional bodies, is constituted in accordance with the intent of the Constitution makers.

“This court is confident that the endeavours made by the worthy chairman of the Senate and the worthy Speaker of the National Assembly will amicably resolve the issue without interference by this court.’’

Citing the IHC order, Senate Chairperson Sanjrani and National Assembly Speaker Qaiser said if the Parliamentary Committee failed to evolve consensus, they, as custodians of both houses of parliament, would use their discretion and send the names to the president and IHC.

Opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif has also proposed three names for a possible replacement of Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Justice (retd) Sardar Muhammad Raza Khan who is retiring on December 6 after completing his five-year constitutional term. In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Imran, he wrote that the ECP would become “dysfunctional” if the CEC and one or more members were not appointed.

Shehbaz’s nominees for CEC slot are two former bureaucrats Nasir Mehmood Khosa and Akhlaq Ahmed Tarar and former ambassador to the US Jalil Abbas Jillani who he said were “eminently qualified” to be appointed as CEC. He called upon the prime minister to make “serious, sincere and genuine efforts to evolve a consensus”.

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