The office of chief election commissioner (CEC) is likely to remain vacant, at least for the next few months, notwithstanding the Supreme Court’s order to fill the position by October 28. The government and the opposition wish to keep the post vacant until the parliamentary committee on electoral reforms completes its work.
“The parliamentary committee on electoral reforms will review the procedure for CEC’s appointment. We will have to wait until the committee completes its work,” said opposition leader Syed Khurshid Shah. According to Shah, there are several proposals under consideration regarding changes in the appointment of CEC.
Following the 18th constitutional amendment, the prime minister must consult the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly and reach a consensus on a nominee for the position. In case they fail to agree on one name, both must propose three names each to a specially constituted parliamentary committee which can then pick out one name.
The ruling PML-N and the opposition PPP held several rounds of talks on the matter last year and earlier this year. Minister of Finance Ishaq Dar heads the 33-member parliamentary committee on electoral reforms and had been involved in these talks with Shah on behalf of the prime minister.
During these consultations, many names, including that of Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, came up for consideration. However, the process came to an abrupt end. The Supreme Court has now given the government two weeks to complete the process.
A similar deadline was given earlier this year when the court asked the government to fill all important vacant posts, including that of CEC, by March this year. Since the parliamentary committee is working on a comprehensive package of electoral reforms, the court will be requested to extend the deadline, Shah said.
Since the appointment of CEC comes under constitutional provisions, any changes would require an amendment to the Constitution, requiring a two-thirds approval from the National Assembly and Senate, separately.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 15th, 2014.
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