ISLAMABAD: Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Justice (retd) Sardar Muhammad Raza Khan on Friday refused to administer oath to the notified two members of the Election Commission of Pakistan, saying that in their appointment the constitutional procedure was not adopted.
Both the newly-appointed Election Commission Members (ECMs) Khalid Mehmood Siddiqui (Sindh) and Munir Ahmad Kakar (Balochistan), when arrived at the Election Commission for oath-taking, were told to wait and a due procedure would be followed.
Through a letter, the chief election commissioner informed the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs about his contention, declining to administer oath to the notified members, since the procedure laid down in the Constitution was not followed in their appointment. On this count, he cited violation of Articles 213 and 214 of the Constitution in the process of the two appointments as the basis for his decision.
“It is a matter of Constitution and not of the law. How can a former judge be expected to violate his oath,” a senior official at the Election Commission told The News. A day earlier, in an unexpected development, the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs issued notification regarding the appointment of the new members of the Election Commission and the move was rejected straight away by the opposition parties and they had hinted at challenging the appointments in a court of law.
It is pertinent to mention that Abdul Ghaffar Soomro and Justice (R) Shakeel Baloch, ECP members from Sindh and Balochistan, had retired in January this year and under the law the new members were to be appointed within 45 days. However, no consultations could be held as such between the prime minister and leader of opposition in the National Assembly, who were supposed to propose names. The parliamentary committee also failed to do the needful.
Meanwhile, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Azam Swati termed the chief election commissioner’s decision regarding the newly-appointed members as very unfortunate and said that his stance and its ‘implications’ were being deliberated upon.
He emphasised that the new members were appointed keeping in view the procedure laid down in the Constitution and these nominations could not be declared in contravention to the law and the Constitution. He said completion of the Election Commission, being extremely important constitutional body, was imperative to carrying out constitutional responsibilities. “On the basis of an ordinary lacunae in interpretation of the Constitution, an important constitutional institution can’t be paralysed,” he maintained.
Meanwhile, Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani reacted strongly to the notification of the ECMs and said, “The manner of appointment of the two members by the president is in violation of Articles 213 and 218 of the Constitution. This is an attack on the Parliament and the Constitution which has come from within, as under Article 50 of the Constitution, the President is a part of the Parliament.” He charged that in the instant case, the president had violated the 18th Constitutional Amendment by making these appointments in his discretion.
The entire process of appointment of the members, he said, has been marred by constitutional violations for and or behalf of the government. he said the in the initial consultation between the prime minister and the leader of opposition failed to take place. Then a deputy secretary of the Foreign Office sent the nominations to the leader of the opposition on behalf of the government, which were later withdrawn. He said the constitutional requirement of filling the vacancies within 45 days of their occurrence had also been violated.
Parliamentary leader of the PPP in the Senate Sherry Rehman said the government has made these two appointments illegally and unconstitutionally. “The Constitution clearly mentioned the procedure for the appointment of the members of the ECP,” she said, adding that the government could not be run the system through ordinances and notifications. “The government should learn to pay respect to the Parliament,” she said.
The Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) chief Senator Sirajul Haq in a statement hailed the chief election commissioner’s decision and asked the government to refrain from taking extra-constitutional steps.
He said PTI government would have to stop its one-wheeling policy while taking important decision like appointment of ECP members. He observed that the government should not take benefit of the situation where Constitution is silent.
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