–Opp urges court to intervene, says watchdog will become non-functional if CEC retires without nomination of successor
–Shireen Mazari terms talks as positive, says consensus will be evolved when body meets next week
ISLAMABAD: With Chief Election Commissioner Justice (r) Sardar Raza Khan all set to retire on Thursday, the opposition parties have approached the Supreme Court (SC) over the appointment of the new CEC amid a deadlock with the government over the nomination of the new election watchdog chief.
Eleven opposition members have signed the petition to the Supreme Court, namely Akram Khan Durrani, Ahsan Iqbal, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, Nayyar Hussain Bukhari, Farhatullah Babar, Mian Iftikhar Hussain, Muhammad Usman Khan Kakar, Muhammad Tahir Bizinjo, Muhammad Hashim Babar, Muhammad Owais Siddiqui, and Rana Shafiq Khan.
The petition, which made the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the federal government respondents in the case, said: “Incumbent Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Justice (r) Sardar Raza will retire on December 06.”
The current CEC is set to retire on Thursday, after which “the ECP will become defunct, thereby halting the entire electoral system of the country”, a petition filed by the opposition stated.
Article 213 has been silent in case the bipartisan parliamentary committee fails to reach an agreement, it said. The silence of Article 213 over the situation will create a constitutional crisis, according to the petition. “The Supreme Court is the only path in case of lack of agreement within the parliamentary panel,” the opposition petition further said.
According to the plea, remaining two members of the commission will also retire next month.
The petitioners have pleaded to the apex court to take an appropriate decision over the matter to thwart a likely constitutional crisis in the country.
Reacting to the joint opposition move, Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry said that it was unfortunate if the opposition would move the apex court over the issue.
Fawad urged all parties to “show flexibility and reach a conclusion”. “If the politicians are too immature to agree upon the appointment of a single member [chief election commissioner], how will they unanimously solve bigger issues of the country?” he questioned.
Last week, Shehbaz had written a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan, suggesting names for the post of the chief election commissioner.
He had proposed the names of three personalities who are “eminently qualified” for the position that comprised former bureaucrat Nasir Mahmood Khosa, former ambassador to the US Jalil Abbas Jilani and ex-civil servant Akhlaq Ahmed Tarar.
He had maintained that PM Imran should have initiated this process of consultation a long time ago. I am starting this procedure to prevent the ECP from getting non-functional, the PML-N leader added.
Earlier, PM Office had raised objections on the names recommended by opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif for the appointment of Chief Election Commissioner. The suggested names were Nasir Mehmood Khosa, Jalil Abbas Jilani and Akhlaq Ahmed Tarar.
PARLIAMENTARY BODY FAILS TO BREAK IMPASSE:
Meanwhile, the impasse between the government and opposition on the appointment of the CEC and the Sindh and Balochistan members of the Election Commission of Pakistan continued on Wednesday, as both sides failed to reach a consensus over the issue.
The parliamentary committee tasked with deciding the matter met again on Wednesday with Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari in the chair, but the meeting concluded without any progress over the issue.
According to reports, the opposition demanded that the government share its nominees for the CEC position before talks could proceed. “The opposition fears that the government may only appoint members to the two vacant seats for Sindh and Balochistan while keeping the CEC’s chair empty,” they quoted members of the meeting as saying.
Mazari, after the meeting, claimed that “consensus was developing” on the appointments of the nominees, as she dubbed the meeting “positive”.
She said the opposition and government are in agreement that the panel proposed the names of the CEC and members together. The minister said a meeting will now be called next week to reach an agreement on names for the three posts.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Imran Khan and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President and National Assembly Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif sent recommendations for ECP members from Sindh and Balochistan to Asad Qaiser and Sanjrani.
For the post of ECP member from Sindh, the PM had proposed the names of Justice (r) Sadiq Bhatti, Justice (r) Noorul Haq Qureshi, and Abdul Jabbar Qureshi, according to a copy of his letter. He had recommended Dr Faiz M Kakar, Mir Naveed Jan Baloch, and Amanullah Baloch for the office of the ECP member from Balochistan.
Shehbaz had recommended Nisar Durrani, Justice (r) Abdul Rasul Memon, and Aurangzeb Haq for the post of ECP member from Sindh. Whereas, for ECP Balochistan member, he proposed the names of Shah Mehmood Jatoi, Muhammad Rauf Atta and Rahila Durrani.