Wednesday September 22, 2021

ECP membership

July 28, 2021

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is an important component of the entire democratic machinery in the country. For its smooth functioning it is of vital importance that it remain well-oiled and complete with its full membership. Unfortunately, now a situation is emerging in which the ECP may remain incomplete for an inordinate period. Its members from Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have retired on July 26, and their replacements the authorities have not announced yet. The law governing these issues stipulates that any new ECP members must take their positions within 45 days of the retirement of outgoing members. It is worth recalling that in the past too, the appointment of ECP members from Balochistan and Sindh took nearly a year – violating ECP rules. The constitution is clear about the composition of the ECP that must include a chief election commissioner and four members – one from each province.

The delay in appointment to the ECP is not the only violation of the law. In 2016, three of the four ECP members assumed their offices in contravention of a constitutional provision that bars re-employment of judges of the superior judiciary within two years of their retirement. It is hoped that, this time around, the appointments do not violate any law. It was surprising when the previous government appointed three retired judges as ECP members before they had completed their mandatory period of two years without holding any office of profit. The prime minister – after consultation with the opposition leader – is responsible for sending three names for each position of an ECP member to a parliamentary panel for confirmation. When the opposition and the government fail to reach a consensus, the appointments get delayed, and this – at times – violates the law and hampers the work of the ECP. This practice has continued during the term of the present government when the appointment of the ECP members from Balochistan and Sindh consumed a year. There is a serious need to do away with minor squabbles while appointing ECP members and the government and the opposition must come together – setting aside their differences – and complete the process of ECP appointments as early as possible.