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November 13, 2019

ECP vacancies


November 13, 2019

Ever since the present government came to power in 2018, it has been unable or unwilling to establish a rapport with the opposition. This had happened in the 1990s too, when the two major parties – the PPP and PML-N – were constantly at each other’s throats. After the restoration of democracy at the end of General Musharraf’s dictatorship in 2008, both parties appeared to have learnt their lesson. In turn, they not only played the role of the opposition against each other but were also able to develop good working relations to pass the 18th Amendment and numerous other bills. One of the milestones in our constitutional history was the agreement they reached on the mechanism to appoint chief election commissioners (CEC) and members of the Election Commission of Pakistan. We thought it heralded a new dawn for democracy in the country as thereafter both the PM and the opposition leader had to agree on the names of the CEC and his/her team.

Come 2019, and we are back to square one. When the two members of the EC from Balochistan and Sindh – Shakeel Baloch and Abdul Ghaffar Soomro – retired earlier this year, their replacement was not done per the constitutional requirement. On August 22, the president appointed Munir Kakar from Balochistan and Khalid Mehmood Siddiqui from Sindh against the two vacant posts. Realizing the unconstitutional nature of these appointments, the CEC refused to administer oath to both members-designate. This is the position that the president should have taken, because his office is above the party politics of parliament and is not supposed to follow all advice coming from the PM House.

Now, CEC Justice Sardar Muhammad Khan is set to retire on completing his term of office on December 7. The Islamabad High Court has declared the appointment of two ECP members by President Arif Alvi unconstitutional, and has ordered the government to solve this matter before the retirement of the CEC. Up until now, PM Imran Khan and opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif have not held a single meeting in this regard. They have exchanged the names of their nominees through their emissaries. Even the bipartisan parliamentary committee with equal representation of the ruling alliance and opposition parties has failed to reach a consensus. It is about time the government tries to reach a consensus, for the sake of democracy and for the sake of its own political survival.

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