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January 14, 2019

Two ECP members’ appointment, military courts issue


January 14, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Apart from consultations on extending the military courts’ functions to try hardcore civilian terrorists, the government and opposition parties are about to engage in talks for appointment of two members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

Prime Minister Imran Khan has just constituted a two-member committee comprising federal ministers Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Pervez Khattak to negotiate with the opposition to reach a consensus on the new constitutional amendment for extension of the military tribunals. This will be second extension. In 13 days, two ECP members representing Sindh and Balochistan are retiring through a draw a month back. They will retire on January 26. Despite the prevailing political confrontation and bitterness, the government and opposition are impelled under the Constitution and also because of other compulsions to discuss with each other, certain issues to arrive at an agreement.

According to the Constitution, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser has reconstituted a 12-member parliamentary committee, having equal representation of the ruling coalition and opposition parties, for appointment of the ECP members. They include Muhammad Mian Soomro, Omar Ayub, Syed Fakhar Imam, Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, Murtaza Javed Abbasi, Rana Sanaullah Khan, Syed Khurshid Ahmed Shah, Shahida Akhtar Ali, Azam Swati, Naseebullah Bazai, Mushahidullah Khan and Dr Sikandar Mandhro.

Two vacancies of members occurred when it was decided in the draw that Justice (R) Abdul Ghaffar Soomro from Sindh and Justice (R) Shakeel Baloch from Balochistan would retire. The mechanism for the retirement of members after their half term in office had been put in place through the 22nd Amendment to ensure continuity of the electoral body. The amendment was made to avoid repetition of the 2010 experience when all the four members retired together and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was rendered dysfunctional for months.

As required under the Constitution, the prime minister and leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, Shahbaz Sharif, will engage in first-ever mandatory consultations to fill up two ECP posts.

In the legal experts’ view, there is no escape from such deliberations. Given the prevailing tense relations between the consultees, Imran Khan and Shahbaz Sharif are unexpected to directly talk to each other about the selection of these nominees, but they will obviously consult indirectly through their close aides.

As per Article 213, the prime minister will, in consultation with the opposition leader, forward three names for appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and every ECP member to the bipartisan parliamentary committee for hearing and confirmation of any one person. In case of no consensus between them, each will forward separate lists to the committee for consideration which may confirm any one name.

As far as the qualifications of those to be made the CEC and ECP members are concerned, the article says no person will be appointed to be the CEC unless he has been a judge of the Supreme Court (high court judge in the case of ECP member) or has been a senior civil servant or is a technocrat and is not more than sixty-eight (65 in case of ECP member) years of age.

Senior civil servant means a bureaucrat who has served for at least 20 years under the federal or a provincial government and has retired in Grade 22 or above.

Technocrat means a person who is the holder of a degree requiring conclusion of at least 16 years of education, recognised by the Higher Education Commission, and has at least 20 years of experience, including a record of achievements at the national or international level. The CEC and ECP members will hold office for a term of five years from the day they enter upon office. The term of office of a member appointed to fill a casual vacancy will be the unexpired term of the office of the member whose vacancy he has filled.

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