Days after Prime Minister Imran Khan appointed Nilofar Bakhtiar as the chairperson of the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW), Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif on Monday, while challenging the move, rejected it as an “illegal appointment”.
In a letter written to the NA Speaker Asad Qaiser, the opposition leader expressed grave concerns over the appointment, which, he alleged, had “derogated the law and rules applicable on the subject” and ignored the majority opinion and vote.
The letter comes as the long-overdue appointment for the post has stirred controversy and questions over the legal merit of the procedure itself.
On Thursday, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) challenged Bakhtiar’s appointment and dubbed it an “insult to parliament”. In a statement, PPP leader Nafisah said: “Bakhtiar’s appointment is tantamount to dacoity and insult to parliament”.
PML-N leader Shehbaz claimed that despite securing majority votes Ms Fauzia Waqar has not been appointed as chairperson, adding “the conduct of the chairperson of the parliamentary committee on the appointment of the NCSW chairperson, is unbecoming of a parliamentarian which cannot be appreciated at any score.”
Referring to an in-camera meeting of the committee on June 15, Shehbaz said that as per the count, Fauzia Waqar had secured six votes whereas Nilofar Bakhtiar had got only five votes, following which the committee chairperson Falak Naz used her own casting vote in the favour of Ms Nilofar.
“The members were astonished to see Ms Falak Naz insisting to cast her own vote in favour of Ms Nilofar Bakhtiar, who otherwise had lost the election,” Shehbaz stated. He claimed that Ms Naz was also reminded of rule 6(4) of the Parliamentary Committee on Appointment of Chairperson of NCSW Rules, 2012, “but she did not pay any heed to it”.
Referring to the rules, Shehbaz said the chairperson has the authority to use the casting vote only when the candidates bagged equal votes. “The insistence to cast vote by the chairperson lacks legal validity whatsoever, rather the same is also in derogation of the ethos of democracy and majoritarian rule which is the bedrock of democracy,” he said.
“Instead of protecting the sanctity of the vote,” he added, “the chairperson stifled the whole process in order to secure the appointment for the government’s blue-eyed candidate as chairperson of the NCSW.”
Moreover, he said that the chairperson of the committee prepared the minutes of the meeting as per her own whims and wishes and declared Bakhtiar as a returned candidate. Referring to committee members’ earlier letter, Shehbaz requested the speaker that their letter should be responded to along with a copy of the verbatim record of the meeting.
“I, being, the leader of the opposition in National Assembly, find myself constrained to bring these illegalities into your notice being the custodian of the House and urge your good-self to take immediate action to remedy this wrong,” Shehbaz wrote.
He concluded by saying that “it is also a legal right of Ms Fauzia Waqar that since she secured majority votes therefore she must be notified as chairperson of NCSW without further loss of time.”
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