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December 6, 2019

Aspirants for CEC office: Who’s who of proposed retired bureaucrats

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December 6, 2019

ISLAMABAD: A retired bureaucrat is going to make it to the prestigious constitutional post of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) after over four decades if he was chosen from the six names separately proposed by Prime Minister Imran Khan and leader of the opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif.

Both the consultees have interestingly, preferred not to recommend the name of even a single former superior court judge. There had been only four ex-civil servants who had been appointed the CEC while all the remaining 13 CEC, including the present incumbent had been retired judges since the creation of the ECP.

Just a day before the retirement of present CEC Justice (R) Sardar Raza Khan, the prime minister has made public his three choices – ECP Secretary Capt (R) Babar Yaqoob Fateh, Arif Khan and Fazal Abbas Maken – for the office of the CEC. A few days back, Shahbaz Sharif suggested the names of Nasir Mahmood Khosa, Akhlaque Tarar and Jalal Abbas Jilani. There is no common name in the two lists. It will be instructive to have a glance over the background and credentials of all the six aspirants.

Babar Yaqoob Fateh is serving as the ECP secretary since May 15, 2015 and held this position during the July 2018 general elections. He was due to retire as the civil servant in October, 2015, a few months after his appointment. However, he was given three-year contract/extension to continue in his office. He was the only bureaucrat, who was accorded such facility after a very long time as this policy has largely been dispensed with. Before this extended term was due to expire on Oct 31, 2018, the CEC, two weeks prior to it, prolonged his stay by another 14 months

Babar Yaqoob is an experienced hand as far as the ECP is concerned for having been perhaps its longest serving secretary. It was during his term that the 2018 polls were held, which are continued to be disputed by the opposition parties particularly the collapse of the result transmission system (RTS). At the time, he had also admitted that the RTS failed to perform, which incapacitated quick transmission of electoral results on the polling day.

“Babar Yaqoob’s name was also recommended to the opposition parties by some to choose it as their candidate for the position of the CEC, but they ignored because of differences among themselves on account of his role in the elections,” a knowledgeable source told The News.

In his long bureaucratic career, Babar Yaqoob had also worked as the chief secretary of Gilgit-Baltistan and Balochistan and cabinet secretary.

Babar Yaqoob’s family is in active in politics. His brother had applied for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) ticket for the National Assembly from Gujranwala in the previous polls. Earlier, the brother had contested the polls on the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) ticket.

Babar Yaqoob is the brother of Brig Tariq Fateh who was Airport Security Force (ASF) commander and in charge at Karachi airport during the plane high jacking drama when Pervez Musharraf had imposed martial law in October 1999.

Another prime minister’s nominee Arif Khan had served as the finance secretary. After his retirement, he was appointed chairman of the Trade Development Authority. He had been a conventional bureaucrat.

Fazal Abbas Maken recently retired as cabinet secretary and had also served as the agriculture secretary. He was once the secretary for industries and science and technology. His colleagues describe him as a decent but weak official and administratively not very strong. He had been Pakistan’s trade minister in India.

From amongst Shahbaz Sharif’s nominees, Nasir Mahmood Khosa, brother of Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, had been known as an upright officer. He was the chief secretary of Punjab with Shahbaz Sharif was chief minister. He was also the principal secretary to Nawaz Sharif as the prime minister before he was sent to the World Bank as Pakistan’s executive director by the previous government. He had also served as the chief secretary of Balochistan.

Khosa was once nominated by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) as the caretaker chief minister of Punjab but later dropped him on the recommendations of some.

The opposition leader’s second aspirant, Akhlaque Tarar, had enjoyed a good reputation. He had worked as the secretary for cabinet and information technology and member of the Federal Public Service Commission. In Punjab he served as secretary for local bodies and senior member of the Board of Revenue.

Jalil Abbas Jilani, related to the former Chief Justice Tassadaq Hussain Jilani and ex-Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, is the former ambassador of Pakistan to Washington. It is believed that the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) got included his name in Shahbaz Sharif’s list of candidates for the post of the CEC.

Under the Constitution, the two lists will go to the parliamentary committee for consideration and confirmation of one of the recommended names if a consensus reached or majority supported it. No consultation as required under Article 213 was held between the prime minister and opposition leader.

A deadlock will occur as before if there was no agreement in the parliamentary forum with the two sides sticking to their recommendations. The Constitution is silent on how to break such stalemate. In the meantime, the Supreme Court, which has been approached by the opposition parties, may interpret Article 213. As stated, the opposition parties will withdraw their petition if an accord was reached in the parliamentary committee

On Thursday, the opposition leader wrote another letter to the prime minister underlining the urgency to appoint the new CEC so that the ECP doesn’t remain dysfunctional for too long. The letter is likely to be produced before the apex court when it will take the opposition parties’ petition.