–IHC CJ asks govt to resolve matter before retirement of CEC Sardar Raza on Dec 7
ISLAMABAD: An Islamabad High Court (IHC) bench on Monday suspended a presidential notification of the appointment of two Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) members and directed the government to solve the matter through parliament.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah, who was hearing a petition against the unilateral appointments of ECP members from Sindh and Balochistan by President Arif Alvi, said that the matter should be solved “as quickly as possible” as the incumbent Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza is retiring on Dec 7.
“Resolve this matter before December 7 and tell the court,” the additional attorney general was told.
The petition, filed by Barrister Jahangir Khan, maintained that the criteria for the appointment of chief election commissioner and members had been laid down in the Constitution and the notification issued for the appointment of members on Aug 22 was “in violation of Articles 213 and 218” of the Constitution.
It merits a mention here that following the appointments, CEC Justice Raza had refused to administer the oath to both members-designate and, instead, wrote a letter to the Law Ministry, saying that the appointment of ECP members was not in accordance with relevant articles of the Constitution.
In an earlier hearing of the case, Justice Minallah had said that the matter must be solved by the parliament and that National Assembly speaker and Senate chairman should resolve the issue through consultations.
Following Justice Minallah’s directions, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser and Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani had met with the government’s legal team and constitutional experts and had decided that opposition parties will be engaged to resolve the issue.
During Monday’s hearing, the IHC chief justice inquired about the progress of the consultation meetings. The additional attorney general informed him that so far three meetings had been held between Qaiser and Sanjrani but “no progress could be made due to deteriorating [law and order] situation.” He was referring to the ongoing anti-government ‘Azadi March’ sit-in that is being led by Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Fazlur Rehman and supported by opposition parties.
“The matter which you are referring to should also be solved in the parliament,” remarked Justice Minallah.
“How much more time do the National Assembly speaker and Senate chairman require?” the IHC top judge asked, regretting that that ECP was “almost non-functional”.
“Four more weeks should be granted,” Additional Attorney General Tariq Mehmood Khokhar said.
The judge directed Khokhar to inform the court about progress on the matter by December 5 and adjourned the hearing until then.