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June 19, 2019

Parliamentary group meets today to appoint two ECP members


June 19, 2019

ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary committee, holding its inaugural meeting on Wednesday, will select one member each of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) from Sindh and Balochistan from the twelve names forwarded to it by Prime Minister Imran Khan and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif.

Both proposed six names each, three for every vacant post. Human Rights Minister Dr Shireen Mazari, who heads the body, has convened the 12-member Parliamentary Committee on Appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and ECP members.

As required by the Constitution, the forum has equal representation of the ruling coalition and opposition parties. Experts say in case, the committee fails to pick up the two ECP members through consensus or by majority for which there are chances given the prevailing relations between the two sides, a deadlock will hit. They argue the Constitution is silent how to break this kind of stalemate. The matter may then be raised before a superior court for interpretation of Article 213 of the Constitution, dealing with the appointment of the ECP members.

Apart from Shireen Mazari, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) will be represented by another four members - Privatization Minister Muhammad Mian Soomro, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Senator Azam Swati, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan and Syed Fakhar Imam. Additionally, independent Senator Naseebullah Bazai is also counted on the government.

The opposition parties’ six members of the committee include Rana Sanaullah Khan, Mushahidullah Khan and Murtaza Javed Abbasi of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Syed Khursheed Shah and Senator Sikandar Mandhro of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Shahida Akhtar Ali of the Muttahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM).

The prime minister has 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 Balochistan government, for their nomination as an ECP member from Balochistan, and 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, retired inspector general of Sindh, for their nomination as a member from Sindh.

The three names proposed by the opposition leader for an ECP member from Balochistan are Salahuddin Mengal, former provincial advocate general and senior advocate of the Supreme Court; Shah Mohammad Jatoi, advocate of the Supreme Court; and Mohammad Rauf Ata, former advocate general and senior advocate of the apex court. The three names for Sindh include Khalid Javed, senior lawyer of the Supreme Court and former president of the Sindh High Court Bar Association; Justice (R) Abdul Rasool Memon, former SHC judge; and Justice (R) Noorul Haq Qureshi, former judge of the Islamabad High Court (IHC).

On Friday, the Opposition Leader forwarded his choice names to the committee without waiting for direct consultation with the prime minister that has not been in sight. In his letter, Shahbaz Sharif said the constitutional provision of consultation between him and the premier has not been fulfilled because the prime minister did not give time for a meeting.

Initially, the government had proposed the names of Salahuddin Mengal, Mahmud Raza Khan, former additional advocate general for Balochistan; and Raja Aamir Abbasi for their appointment as ECP member from Balochistan, and Mohammad Nadeem Qureshi, ex-member judicial (judge of the customs appellate tribunal); Justice (R) Abdul Rasool Memon, former registrar of the SHC; and Justice (R) Noorul Haq Qureshi, a former IHC judge, for Sindh.

Earlier, when Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had sent the government’s nominations to the Opposition Leader and that too through an additional secretary of his ministry, these were rejected by Shahbaz Sharif saying that he (Qureshi) is not a constitutional consultee and hence his nominations are rejected. Later, the prime minister himself wrote letter to the Opposition Leader proposing the nominees.

The posts of two ECP members fell vacant in January this year. Under the Constitution, these were to be filled up within forty-five days by mid-March. So far, delay of three months has been caused because of the tense government-opposition relations. Since its constitution, this parliamentary committee is holding its first-ever meeting in which both sides will press that their respective choices are picked up as the ECP members.

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