ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary committee meets on Tuesday (today) to consider nominations for members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) from Sindh and Balochistan, amid back-channel efforts for consensus.
Following the retirement of Abdul Ghaffar Soomro and retired Justice Shakeel Baloch in January, the positions of ECP members from Sindh and Balochistan have been lying vacant.
Under the law, the positions were required to be filled within 45 days, but the deadline passed without even the initiation of consultation between the prime minister and the leader of the opposition. And even after belated commencement of the indirect consultation process, a controversy arose when President Dr Arif Alvi on Aug 22 appointed the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s nominees as ECP members.
However, the next day when Khalid Mehmood Siddiqui from Sindh and Munir Ahmad Kakar from Balochistan went to the ECP to assume the charge of their posts the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) refused to administer the oath of office to them, saying their appointment was against the Constitution.
Two members of the parliamentary committee belonging to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) then challenged their appointment in the Islamabad High Court (IHC). The high court in its order observed that constitutional provisions had not been followed and referred the matter to parliament and suspended the notification of their appointment.
The bicameral and bipartisan committee of parliament, headed by Human Rights Minister Dr Shireen Mazari, will only consider names of ECP members from Sindh and Balochistan as both Prime Minister Imran Khan and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif have proposed three names each for the two offices.
Mr Sharif, through a letter to the NA speaker and Senate chairman on Nov 30, proposed the names of Nisar Durrani, retired Justice Abdul Rasul Memon, former registrar of the Sindh High Court, and Aurangzeb Haq as ECP member from Sindh. And for the office of the ECP member from Balochistan, he suggested the names of senior Supreme Court lawyer Shah Mohammad Jatoi, former advocate general Mohammad Rauf Atta and Raheela Durrani.
Prime Minister Khan has sent to the NA speaker and Senate chairman the names of retired Justice Sadiq Bhatti, retired Justice Noorul Haq Qureshi and Abdul Jabbar Qureshi for the post of ECP member from Sindh. For the office of ECP member from Balochistan, the prime minister recommended the names of Dr Faiz Kakar, Mir Naveed Jan Baloch, a businessman and a former caretaker minister in the provincial government, and former district and sessions judge, Quetta, Amanullah Baloch.
The CEC’s office is also set to fall vacant after completion of the five-year term of CEC retired Justice Sardar Mohammad Raza Khan on Dec 6.
Shahbaz Sharif has already suggested the names of former bureaucrats Nasir Mehmood Khosa and Akhlaq Ahmed Tarar and former ambassador to the US Jalil Abbas Jillani, but the prime minister is yet to name his nominees.
On Monday, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani and NA Speaker Asad Qaiser held a meeting and discussed matters pertaining to appointment of ECP members. They expressed satisfaction over the headway made so far and expressed the hope that the matter would be decided in a spirit of reconciliation.
PML-N Secretary General Ahsan Iqbal will preside over a meeting of the joint opposition on Tuesday (today). According to a statement issued by PML-N Information Secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb, the meeting will discuss the delay in appointment of ECP members and the CEC, created allegedly by the PTI government.
She said the meeting would also discuss the government’s ignorance, incompetence and dereliction and non-cooperation over the crucial constitutional matter.
Murtaza Javed Abbasi, Nisar Cheema and Mushahidullah Khan would represent the PML-N at the meeting, she said.
She said former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and former opposition leader Khurshid Shah will represent the Pakistan Peoples Party, while Senator Sikandar Mundhero will also attend the meeting.
Shahid Akhtar Ali will represent the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal at the meeting.