Dr Tahirul Qadri, a top cleric who has re-entered Pakistan’s political scene ahead of the polls, has filed a petition in the Supreme Court, arguing that as the Election Commission of Pakistan’s members were not chosen properly, it should be declared illegal.
His argument hinges on Article 218 of the Constitution, which lays down how the commission is made up. It should have five members, including a chief election commissioner. “This article categorically states that the appointment of these five members should be done according to Article 213,” Qadri told the media at the court on Thursday. Article 213 states that the prime minister and the leader of opposition should propose three names for every post in the election commission and then send the total of 15 names to a parliamentary committee, he elaborated.
The parliamentary committee, divided between government and opposition representatives, should call a public hearing to debate the 15 names. “The committee should have called the nominees and confirmed one name for each post after the hearing,” he said. “But the parliamentary committee members did ‘muk-muka’ [inside deal] on the names and did not summon any nominee.” They confirmed the names and the president appointed them, he added.
Qadri has thus told the court that he feels the composition and constitution of the current election commission was unconstitutional. He plans to host the petition himself, if it is accepted for hearing. Qadri certainly has the credentials to undertake this task. The 61-year-old chief of Minhajul Quran International, a wide Islamic educational network, has written nearly 1,000 books, with some on Islamic law, and he is considered an expert in the history of Islamic constitutional theory.
Through his petition, Qadri told the court that he organised a campaign to exert public pressure on the government and all stakeholders to implement the provisions of Articles 62, 63 and 218 (3) of the Constitution and the verdict of the court in letter and spirit. He also quoted international precedent in support of his stance, in the petition.
Members of the election commission can only be appointed as has been laid down by the Constitution itself, the petition said. No other way is conceivable. This conscious departure from procedure is quite meaningful and cannot be ignored, Qadir argued in his petition.
He has referred to the case of Justice (retd) Deedar Hussain Shah, whose appointment as the National Accountability Bureau chairman was invalidated by the court since it was made without consulting the leader of the opposition.
Meanwhile, addressing the media at the Allama Iqbal Airport in Lahore, Qadri said that Supreme Court has not raised raise any objection to his petition so far, and that it might be fixed for hearing on Monday or Tuesday.
The cleric claimed that major political parties such as the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement supported his petition.
A confident Qadri added, however, that he would accept whatever decision the court takes on his petition. He parried a question on a statement made by Chief Election Commissioner Fakhruddin G Ebrahim that it was impossible to reconstitute the election commission, saying he was focusing on his petition.
On another note, it was announced that the Minhajul Quran International’s political wing, the Pakistan Awami Tehreek, would soon announce its strategy for the upcoming general elections.
(With additional reporting by Abdul Manan in Lahore)
Published in The Express Tribune, February 8th, 2013.