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September 16, 2019

Controversy over ECP members: Well before members’ appointment, CEC had opposed it

Top Story

September 16, 2019

Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Justice (R) Sardar Raza Khan. File photo

ISLAMABAD: A couple of days before the controversial appointment of ECP members, Law Minister Barrister Farogh Naseem had a heart to heart conversation with the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Justice (R) Sardar Raza Khan at the latter’s office.

The minister shared his plan of inducting the ECP members against the vacant positions of Sindh and Baluchistan.

The CEC didn’t mind until he came to know which was not only unthinkable for him, it was unfeasible as well. He was told that appointments would be done without fulfilling the constitutional requirement of consultation with the parliamentary opposition.

More: Govt comes face to face with CEC

At this, the CEC refused to take oath in the event of such inductions. “He had conveyed this in an unambiguous manner,” said a source privy to details. Nevertheless, Farogh stuck to what he had already made up his mind about. There is a deadlock, he explained to CEC, as government has been unable to explore consensus with the opposition on the names.

His argument failed to persuade the CEC who said politicians were capable enough to find a solution provided they were granted opportunity.

“If the government-proposed names have been rejected by the opposition, send them another list of names and keep doing this until the consensus is explored,” Justice ® Sardar Raza is quoted to have counseled Farogh.

The law minister was however adamant to go forward with what the government had already decided — appointment of the members without securing consensus on them. The CEC made his last-ditch effort to withhold the process. He even went on to ask the law minister to withhold appointments until his term expired in December this year as letting them go unchecked would be out of question under his watch, according to the source.

However, the meeting ended, as both sides disagreed to agree nevertheless asking each other to reconsider their positions. The CEC made it plain and clear again that he would be unable to administer oath if constitutional process was not followed. The law minister didn’t return the call when The News tried to reach him and dropped a text message requesting his version.

According to clause 2A of Article 213 of the Constitution, “The Prime Minister shall in consultation with the leader of opposition in the National Assembly forward three names for appointment of the commissioner to a parliamentary committee for hearing and confirmation.”

Composition of the parliamentary committee has been explained in the subsequent clause, 2B. Without following the due process, the members’ notifications were issued through a presidential notification in violation of the above-mentioned clauses.

President Arif Alvi had notified Khalid Mehmood Siddiqui from Sindh and Munir Ahmed Kakar from Balochistan as ECP members against the vacant positions earlier held by Abdul Ghaffar Soomro and Justice (R) Shakeel Baloch from the respective provinces.

As they went to the ECP Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh along with their joining reports, the secretary conveyed to them the CEC’s views on their appointments and a communication he had sent to the ministry of parliamentary affairs.

In the letter to the ministry, the CEC had declared that the appointments under question were in violation of the Constitution. A 2013 SC judgment of a five-member bench was also cited wherein it was held that the President of Pakistan didn’t enjoy discretionary power to appoint CEC and ECP members.

The letter thus made it clear that oath wouldn’t be administered to the unconstitutionally appointed members. An ECP official said a wrong and very dangerous precedent would have been set had these appointments gone unquestioned. “Today, they have appointed ECP members, tomorrow they can appoint CEC this way as term of the incumbent expires in December this year,” said an ECP official.