The federal government on Sunday began consultation with the opposition for appointing four members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
After the ECP was rendered incomplete with the retirement of its four members on June 12, the electoral process had come to a halt across the country, including mayoral or deputy mayoral elections, by-polls in various constituencies and notification of newly-elected parliamentarians.
The four ECP members, who retired from their offices after expiry of their term were Justice (r) Roshan Esani (Sindh), Justice (r) Riaz Kiyani (Punjab), Justice (r) Fazalur Rehman (Balochistan) and Justice (r) Shahzad Akbar Khan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa).
According to the constitution, ECP members are appointed by the government in consultation with the opposition. As per Article 13-A and B, the prime minister and opposition leader are bound to send three names from each province to a 12-member parliamentary committee which will pick one name for appointment as ECP member from the respective province.
The parliamentary committee must have equal representation of opposition and government legislators, eight members of the National Assembly and four from the Senate.
Parliament has recently unanimously passed 22nd constitutional amendment, according to which a technocrat can now also be appointed as the chief election commissioner (CEC) or ECP member.
Under the amendment, no serving Supreme Court judge can serve as the acting CEC and hence, the most senior ECP member in age will function as the acting CEC if the office is vacant at any time or the CEC is absent or is unable to perform his/her functions due to any other cause.
Moreover, out of the four new members to be appointed, now two would retire after two and a half years while the rest would complete the five-year tenure. This procedure would be adopted to ensure that all posts of the ECP members do not fall vacant at the same time in future.
The parliamentary committee on the appointment of four members has recently elected Information Minister Senator Pervaiz Rashid as its chairman.
The committee consists of members from Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N), Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F).
The committee is expected to hold its meeting in next couple of days.
The Chief Election Commissioner has already postponed by-elections in five national and provincial assembly constituencies in Punjab and Sindh, due to the pending appointment of ECP members.
The constituencies, where polls have been postponed, include NA-63 (Jhelum), NA-162 (Sahiwal), PP-232 (Vehari), PP-240 (DG Khan), PS-14 and PS-127 (Karachi).
The CEC has also postponed the elections of mayors / deputy mayors and chairmen / vice chairmen of local bodies in Sindh till appointment of new members.
Moreover, local government election and by-election in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have also been postponed.
Even the ECP could not issue the notification of the returned candidates, including Muhammad Ashraf Warraich elected from PP-97, besides others.
It may be mentioned that the retiring members were appointed in June 2011 for a five-year term after consultations between the government and the opposition parties according to the procedure as per 18th constitutional amendment.