ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Monday sent its own amended nomination forms for printing, as the president could not take a decision on the matter after the Ministry of Law had raised several objections to the proposed changes.
The forms, bearing signatures of Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim and the three Election Commission Members (ECMs) Riaz Kayani (Punjab), Shahzad Akbar Khan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) and Fazlur Rehman (Balochistan), were sent for printing.
The signatures of ECM Sindh Roshan Essani were missing from the document. Ostensibly, Essani was opposed to the sweeping changes in the forms. However, this could not be confirmed why he did not affix his signatures on the document.
According to a press release by the ECP, the Election Commission had sent its nomination form (“the proposed Nomination Form”) to the president for approval under Section 107 of ROPA on February 2. After that, the ECP did not get any response until the meeting with Law Minister Farooq H Naek on Thursday, March 7, during which he said that he had a number of objections to the proposed nomination form.
The ECP asked the law minister to submit his objections in writing immediately so that the same may be considered by the commission. The Law Ministry sent its objections in writing on Friday last. A reply was immediately sent on behalf of the ECP on the same day in which it was stated that the ECP did not agree with the objections of the ministry and requested it to send the proposed nomination form to the president for approval by Monday, March 11. The printing of the nomination forms had to start from Monday, therefore, the ECP could not wait for president’s approval and sent the nomination forms for printing.
The ECP took the decision on legal basis i.e. “(i) It is the mandate of the ECP to conduct free, fair and transparent elections under Article 218 of the Constitution; (ii) the approval of the President under section 107 of ROPA is merely a formality; and (iii) the Hon’ble Supreme Court of Pakistan has stated in the Worker’s Party that the ECP ‘is empowered and independent to do all that is necessary to fulfill its Constitutional mandate’ and instruct that it do so.”
It was learnt that Law Minister Farooq H Naek had told the Election Commission in their recent meeting that the old forms with one or two changes should be printed for the general election, saying the proposed changes would be useless.
When approached on phone, Justice (retd) Riaz Kayani told ‘The News’ that the CEC telephoned them at the Election Commission Secretariat on Monday morning to reiterate that Article 218(3) empowered (mandated) the electoral body to take every possible measure to make the elections free, fair and transparent, and free of corrupt practices.
The veteran jurist noted that the approval of the president was just a formality under the Representation of the People Act 1976, whereas the Constitution fully authorised the ECP to hold elections and take steps for making them free of malpractices and the candidates must fulfil the conditions enunciated in Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution. To achieve this, the ECP had furnished new nomination forms besides evolving a mechanism to verify and scrutinise the details to be given by the candidates in the nomination forms.
The CEC said the nomination form, in its new outlook, was a key to keeping the corrupt elements at bay. “The chief election commissioner is determined not to let the tax evaders, defaulters, those who got their loans written off and were indicted, to take part in elections,” Kayani maintained.
The Punjab ECM said the CEC called to order printing of the forms by the evening if three members also supported the idea and then ECMs Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan signed the document along with the chief election commissioner and sent them for printing.
It is interesting to note that earlier in the day, ECP Additional Secretary Muhammad Afzal Khan said that heavens would not fall if they waited for another 24 hours for the presidential nod on the papers. He had also noted that they were hopeful for a positive response from the president by the evening.