–Justice (r) Raza terms appointment of new ECP members from Sindh, Balochistan ‘unconstitutional’
–ECP informs Parliamentary Affairs Ministry about rejection of new members
ISLAMABAD: The federal government on Friday suffered another setback over its effort to appoint new members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) from Sindh and Balochistan as Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Justice (r) Sardar Muhammad Raza Khan refused to administer oath to the newly-appointed members of the election watchdog.
President Arif Alvi on Thursday had made two appointments to the ECP. Khalid Mehmood Siddiqui was appointed as a member from Sindh and Munir Ahmed Khan Kakar from Balochistan. The notification triggered reaction from the opposition, which said it was not taken into confidence during the decision-making process.
The newly-appointed members arrived at the ECP office on Friday and requested the CEC to administer oath to them. However, the CEC flatly refused to do the same, telling the new members that their appointment was not made in line with the constitutional provisions and hence he would not administer oath to both of them.
The CEC said that the appointment of the new members was in violation of Article 213 and 214 of the Constitution of Pakistan and hence they could not become members of the ECP. Later, the ECP wrote to the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs to inform the decision of the CEC.
The refusal by the CEC not only caused an embarrassment to the federal government but has created yet another crisis. The opposition had already vowed to challenge the appointments in the court of law.
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Raza Rabbani lauded the chief election commissioner for his decision. He said that Justice Raza has prevented a violation of the Constitution. He said that the decision against administrating the oath was in line with the Constitution and that the decision would uphold the credibility of the ECP.
Former ECP members from Sindh and Balochistan — Abdul Ghaffar Soomro and Justice (r) Shakeel Baloch — had retired in January and, under the law, the positions were to be filled within 45 days.
In March this year — after the government had already missed the deadline for making appointments — the prime minister had sent three names for each of the vacancies to Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif.
Prime Minister Imran Khan had 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, as nominees from Balochistan.
He also proposed the names of Khalid Mehmood Siddiqui, a lawyer; Justice (r) Farrukh Zia Sheikh, a former judge of the Sindh High Court (SHC); and Iqbal Mehmood, a retired inspector general of Sindh, as nominees from Sindh.
After the government sent its amended list, the opposition too moved to amend its own list of candidates. The opposition’s amended list included the names of three out of six nominees dropped by the government.
The opposition’s nominees from Sindh — former SHC Bar Association president Khalid Javed, former SHC judge Abdul Rasool Memon and former IHC judge Noorul Haq Qureshi — remained unchanged. Both the former judges were on the original list issued from the office of Foreign Minister Qureshi.
In its slightly amended list for Balochistan, the opposition replaced the name of former chief justice of Balochistan High Court (BHC), Justice (r) Noor Muhmmad Meskanzai, with former Balochistan advocate general Salahuddin Mengal.
The government and the opposition had exchanged lists of their nominees during a meeting of the parliamentary panel on appointment of ECP members held on June 14. The committee then held a meeting on June 19 with the aim to finalise one name each from Sindh and Balochistan for ECP members.
However, no consensus could be developed and the issue remained in a deadlock, with both the government and the opposition insisting on having a member of their choice from Sindh and giving the right to pick a member from Balochistan to the other.