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July 8, 2019

Selection of ECP members: Will govt succeed in getting its choice?

Top Story

July 8, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The ruling coalition will get its choice nominees appointed as members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) from Sindh and Balochistan on Monday in the wake of Rana Sanaullah’s incarceration. The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader’s arrest and consequential absence from the Monday meeting of a parliamentary committee that will select the ECP members has given a one vote edge to the ruling alliance over the opposition parties.

The session of Federal Minister Dr Shirin Mazari-led parliamentary panel will be held on July 9 to consider the one-appoint agenda — nomination of two ECP members. The forum has equal representation of the government and opposition and if a single member of any side is unable to attend the meeting, it will be deprived of the majority, giving advantage to its rival.

Under rule 108 of the Rules of Procedure & Conduct of Business in the National Assembly, the chairperson of a committee of which the imprisoned MP is a member may summon him to attend its session if his presence is considered necessary.

Being its chairperson, Dr Mazari is unlikely to oblige the opposition by seeking the presence of vocal PML-N leader in the discussion, given the stern stand taken by Prime Minister Imran Khan against issuance of production orders for the detained MPs.

Rana Sanaullah’s wife Nabila has quoted her spouse as saying that even if his production order was issued, he would not attend the National Assembly session. If he sticks to this stand, his non-attendance in the committee’s meeting on Monday is certain even if Dr Mazari summoned him. His non-appearance will go tothe government’s advantage.

Apart from Dr Mazari, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is represented in the parliamentary body by another four members - Privatization Minister Muhammad Mian Soomro, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Senator Azam Swati, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan and Kashmir Committee Chairman Syed Fakhar Imam. Besides, it also enjoys the support of independent Senator Naseebullah Bazai.

The opposition parties’ six members include Rana Sanaullah, Mushahidullah Khan and Murtaza Javed Abbasi of the 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).

After the expected deadlock on picking up two ECP members emerged in the second meeting of the panel on June 25, Prime Minister’s Special Assistant Naeemul Haq announced that the government would go to the Supreme Court for interpretation of the Constitution, which is silent on how to deal with the situation if a standoff surfaces.

Two days after Rana Sanaullah’s July 1 arrest, the notice dated July 3 for the present meeting of the committee was issued. This showed the government was having a second thought about approaching the apex court.

Experts say in case of failure of the committee to choose the two ECP members through consensus or by majority, Article 213 of the Constitution, dealing with such appointments, doesn’t provide a way-out or mechanism to be adopted to break the logjam. Then, only course left is to go to a superior court for an answer.

The prime minister has proposed to the committee the names of Amanullah Baloch, former district and sessions judge, Quetta; Munir Kakar, a lawyer; and Mir Naveed Jan Baloch, a businessman and former Balochistan caretaker minister, 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 (retd) Noorul Haq Qureshi, former judge of the Islamabad High Court (IHC).

The posts of the two ECP members fell vacant in January this year, which were required to be filled up within forty-five days.

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