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September 13, 2019

Govt comes face to face with CEC

Top Story

September 13, 2019

ISLAMABAD: As deadlock on appointment of two members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) persists, the federal government and the top polls body chief openly came face-to-face on Thursday.

The deadlock thickened more even when the federal government decided to move Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) against the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Justice (R) Sardar Raza Khan for not following President Arif Alvi's advice to take oath from the newly chosen members (by the president) representing Sindh and Balochistan.

"We've principally decided to file a reference against CEC Sardar Raza Khan. Grounds have been carefully framed. Ministry for Law and Justice and Prime Minister Imran Khan have already been taken into confidence on this important matter," a senior minister confirmed to this correspondent on Thursday.

"The CEC, by not taking oath from the members, not only violated his oath but also breached the Constitution. He refused to obey the President's order [advice]--this is the key reason written in the reference most likely to be filed in next 48 hours," added the minister who was familiar with the development.

It would be first development of its kind in history of the ECP as the federal government moves against Justice (R) Sardar Raza Khan who would complete his five-year constitutional term by Dec 5, 2019. Justice Khan had taken oath as the CEC following his nomination for the post on Dec 6, 2014.

The minister, who also met Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday, also added that the CEC also misused his power when he sent a summary of Rs400 million for the approval to Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs months back. “We have also counted this reason, too, in the drafted reference where Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs noted that this summary of Rs400 million was rejected by the competent authority on the grounds that the top polls body chief could not recommend such a huge amount for perks and privilege of his officers.

A spokesperson for the ECP said President Alvi's appointment of members was “unconstitutional”. "He [The President] violated Article 213 (a) and (b) of the Constitution while appointing members of the ECP." The president had appointed two members of ECP Khalid Mehmood Siddiqui from Sindh and Munir Ahmed Kakar from Balochistan last month.

Another minister, however, has had a different opinion on this matter telling this correspondent that "the government has had a weak ground against the chief election commissioner. It might not file the reference having fear that it might not go in its favour. Another argument, in my view, was also on the ground that Justice Raza Khan has had a few months to go as well."

Kanwar Dilshad, ECP former secretary, argues that the CEC took the right decision by not taking the oath. In light of Supreme Court where a five-member bench decided in 2013 that the President of Pakistan does not enjoy himself extreme discretionary power in appointment of CEC and ECP members, he added. Law Minister Farogh Nasim, however, told the press, "The CEC’s refusal to administer oath to the appointed members was unconstitutional. He [CEC] had little authority to examine validity of government notifications."

Some nine months passed over when Abdul Ghaffar Soomro and Justice (R) Shakeel Baloch– the ECP members from Sindh and Balochistan– retired, the federal government failed to build consensus on new members to fill in the key slots at the ECP. Under the law, their successors should have been appointed within 45 days of their retirement. The prime minister, the opposition leader in the National Assembly and a parliamentary committee also failed to develop consensus on the new members.

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