ECP incomplete months after expiry of constitutional deadline

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) continues to be incomplete since the retirement of its two members on Jan 26 and there is no sign this important constitutional body is going to attain its strength anytime soon.

ECP members Abdul Ghaffar Soomro and retired Justice Shakeel Baloch from Sindh and Balochistan, respectively, retired on Jan 26 and new members under the Constitution should have been appointed by March 12 — the constitutional deadline that the government has missed.

Initially, the process of consultation between Prime Minister Imran Khan and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif could not start and later a controversy was sparked after Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi through an additional secretary wrote a letter to the opposition leader proposing three names each for ECP members from Sindh and Balochistan.

The prime minister had later ‘reconsidered’ his strategy and began ‘consultation’ with Mr Sharif by suggesting to him through a letter three nominations each for the vacant posts of the ECP members.

The prime minister has suggested the names of Amanullah Baloch, former district and sessions judge, Quetta; Munir Kakar, a lawyer; and Mir Naveed Jan Baloch, a businessman and former caretaker minister in the provincial government, for their nomination as a member of the ECP from Balochistan.

He has proposed the names of Khalid Mehmood Siddiqui, a lawyer; retired Justice Farrukh Zia Sheikh, a former judge of the Sindh High Court; and Iqbal Mehmood, retired inspector general of Sindh police for their nomination as a member of the ECP from Sindh.

Around a week after the development, Mr Sharif wrote a letter to the prime minister suggesting three names each for the two vacancies.

Mr Sharif proposed the names of Shah Mohammad Jatoi, president of the Balochistan High Court Bar Association; Mohammad Noor Meskanzai, former chief justice of the Balochistan High Court; and Mohammad Rauf Ata, a former advocate general for Balochistan, for the ECP member from Balochistan.

For Sindh, the opposition leader proposed the names of Abdul Rasool Memon, a retired judge of the Sindh High Court (SHC); Khalid Javed, a former president of the SHC Bar Association; and Noorul Haq Qureshi, a retired judge of the Islamabad High Court.

Under Articles 213 and 218 of the Constitution, the prime minister in consultation with the opposition leader forwards three names for the appointment of the CEC or ECP member to a parliamentary committee for confirmation of one name.

The parliamentary committee, constituted by the NA speaker, draws half of its members from treasury benches and half from opposition parties, based on their strength in parliament, to be nominated by their respective parliamentary leaders.

In case a consensus is not reached between the prime minister and the opposition leader, the law says that each will forward separate lists to the parliamentary committee for consideration. The strength of the parliamentary committee must be 12 members, one-third of whom will be from the Senate.

Though a parliamentary committee on appointment of ECP members headed by Minister for Human Rights Dr Shirin Mazari had been formed by National Assembly Spe­aker Asad Qaiser even before the two members had retired, the committee has never met.

A meeting convened a day after the prime minister suggested names in his letter to Mr Sharif had been cancelled at the last minute. With Mr Sharif being out of the country for an indefinite period, the fate of the appointment of ECP members hangs in the balance.

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