While consultations are under way to evolve a consensus on the name of a new chief election commissioner, two opposition parties have come up with a demand for revamping the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Khursheed Shah started the consultation process on Thursday and the government proposed the names of Justice (retd) Tassaduq Gillani, Justice (retd) Saeed uz Zaman Siddiqui and Justice (retd) Rana Bagwandas while Shah suggested the names of Justice (retd) Ajmal Mian and Justice (retd) Tariq Pervez.
But on Friday, some more names came to the fore when the government contacted its allies and Khurshid Shah accosted other opposition groups.
Information Minister Peraviz Rashid contacted JUI-F, Qaumi Watan Party, National Party and MQM while Shah contacted the PTI, QWP, ANP and also MQM.
During Shah’s meeting with PTI’s Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the PTI proposed the name of Justice (retd) Nasir Aslam Zahid. The Jamaat-e-Islami, which is a coalition partner of the PTI in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government also endorsed PTI’s nominee. The two parties also demanded the incumbent four members of the ECP be replaced with ‘noncontroversial figures’.
The office of the CEC has been vacant since July last year. However, the four retired high court judges working as members can stay on till June 2016, unless they resign voluntarily or are forced to quit through some constitutional changes.
The MQM proposed four names –Justice (retd) Nasir Aslam Zahid, Justice (retd) Ghaus Muhammad, Justice (retd) Tassaduq Hussain Jilani and Justice (retd) Rana Bhagwan Das – for the post.
According to some sources another name, Justice (retd) Shakir Ullah Jan, has also been discussed in meetings of these political parties.
Under the existing constitutional framework, only a retired Supreme Court judge can be appointed as CEC and retired judges of high courts can be appointed as member from each province.
The largest opposition party in the lower house, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), has also proposed an amendment to this provision so that retired bureaucrats or politicians of good repute could also assume these offices. The proposal is pending with the parliamentary committee on electoral reforms, which is working on a comprehensive package to revamp the country’s stale electoral system.
Khurshid Shah’s plea for some more time to appoint the CEC has been rejected by the Supreme Court, which has now given the government and opposition until November 16 to make the appointment. Or else the top court would withdraw its judge who is currently serving as acting CEC.
Legal experts believe that after the passage of 18th amendment, the role of the CEC has been minimised in the commission’s decision making.
Meanwhile, the superior bars have expressed reservations over the nomination of outgoing chief justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani for the post. Talking to The Express Tribune, Supreme Court Bar Association President Fazal-i- Haq Abbasi said the post of CEC does not suit the former chief justice.
Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) Vice Chairman Burhan Moazzam Malik also expressed reservations over Justice Jillani’s nomination. He said ECP’s former official Afzal Khan had alleged that Jillani was involved in rigging the 2013 elections.
He said PBC’s executive body had already passed a resolution against his appointment in last days of his tenure and the bar would resist his possible appointment.
SCBA’s former president Asma Jahangir also opposed the nomination of Justice Jillani. She recalled when another former chief justice, Irshad Hasan Khan, had been appointed CEC soon after his retirement – a fact that in her opinion “harmed the institution of judiciary”.
Here it must be noted that in a resolution adopted by the PBC executive committee at its June 28 meeting in Lahore, the council had accused the government of deliberately delaying the appointment of a permanent CEC in order to accommodate a person of its choice.
“Justice Jillani has been in news and it appeared that procrastination on behalf of the government in initiating the process of appointment of a permanent CEC was intentional with a view to accommodating the incumbent chief justice and his retirement was being awaited,” the resolution read.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 8th, 2014.