Election crucible

August 27, 2023

ECP is ready to allow the caretaker government to appoint a new NADRA chairman

Election crucible


The stipulated period for appointing a new chairman for the National Database Registration Authority has expired. The Election Commission of Pakistan is prepared to grant permission to the caretaker government to fill this vacancy. The appointment holds key significance in the conduct of upcoming elections.

“The NADRA holds a significant role in the electoral processes. A large portion of election activities are reliant on the Authority. It should have a new leader. We will not raise any objections if and when the government seeks permission for this appointment,” a senior ECP official tells The News on Sunday.

The appointment of the NADRA chairman is all the more important in the current circumstances considering the pivotal role the organisation had in the elections held in 2018. Despite the controversy surrounding the election results for various reasons, the NADRA stood at the forefront of the electoral processes, with its digital voter lists and national identity card data.

The appointment of a new chairman for the NADRA carries significant implications for the management of the upcoming elections. At the same time, it presents a substantial challenge for the caretaker set-up, given their limited authority for decision making.

“Article 218 clearly gives the ECP the authority to make necessary arrangements for conducting free and fair elections. Within this framework, we possess the power to grant permission for an appointment,” says the ECP official.

The previous government, under then prime minister Shahbaz Sharif had tried to appoint a person of their choice. However, the effort failed and the stipulated time for the appointment lapsed.

Tariq Malik, the former NADRA chairman, tendered his resignation on June 13 while under investigation by the Federal Investigation Agency and the National Accountability Bureau. Substantial evidence against him has not surfaced so far. Under the relevant law, the government had 60 days following this development to appoint a successor.

“The NADRA Ordinance 2000 requires the government to appoint a chairman within sixty days. This window closed on August 13,” a former official associated with the matter says.

The appointment of a new chairman for the NADRA has significant implications for the management of the upcoming elections. At the same time, it presents a substantial challenge for the caretaker set-up, given their limited authority in making decisions.

The NADRA Appointment of Chairman Rules, 2020, stipulate that in making the appointment of the chairman, the government must adhere to the merit. This requires advertising the position and assessing the candidates in accordance with predetermined, objective evaluation and scoring criteria.

The previous government advertised the post on July 6, providing a 15-day window for potential candidates to submit their applications. On August 7, the government amended the appointment regulations with the approval of [then] Interior Secretary Syed Ali Murtaza.

Asad Gillani, an additional secretary at the Prime Minister’s Secretariat, now working in the Aviation Division, assumed charge as acting head of the NADRA following the resignation of Malik. Gillani is still working in that capacity.

However, he is no longer interested in the job. “Not any longer,” he told TNS when asked if he was still a candidate for the position. Asked why, he responded with a cryptic: “shift of priorities.”

On August 9, the Interior Ministry invited all applicants for interviews at the R block in the Federal Secretariat. However, no decision could be reached with regard to the appointment.

Once, the National Assembly was dissolved, the government went into the caretaker mode. No significant appoint could then be made without the permission of the Chief Election Commissioner.

Sources in the Interior Ministry say that the matter is under consideration of the caretaker interior minister, Sarfraz Bugti, and Additional Secretary Abdullah Khan Sumbal.

The writer, an investigative journalist for The News and Geo TV, is the author of The Secrets of Pakistan’s War on Al Qaeda. Twitter: @AzazSyed

Election crucible