Two new ECP members appointed after year-long delay
ast week, Chief Election Commissioner Sikander Sultan Raja stated that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) would continue to work fearlessly and independently.
His comments set the future course of action after the oath taking ceremony of two new members of the five-member commission. The appointment of these two members had faced delays since July 2021.
President Dr Arif Alvi has appointed Babar Hassan Bharwana and Justice Ikramullah Khan (retired) as members of the ECP from the Punjab and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, respectively, under Article 218 (2)(b) of the Constitution of Pakistan on the advice of the prime minister. The ECP comprises the chief election commissioner and four members — one from each province.
A political deadlock had delayed the appointment/ nomination of members of the ECP during the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) regime. Earlier, the appointment of ECP members from Sindh and Balochistan had also been delayed for more than six months.
The then opposition had announced plans to move the Supreme Court of Pakistan over the delay. According to the constitution, the vacancies should have been filled within 45 days. The constitution states that the prime minister and the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly will forward three names to the parliamentary committee after reaching consensus on the matter. Otherwise, the matter will be referred to the parliamentary committee.
“It is for the first time in the history of the ECP that the appointments of the members of the commission have been delayed for such a long period. This happened because of a political deadlock between the then ruling PTI and the opposition leader, Shahbaz Sharif, whom Prime Minister Imran Khan was not ready to consult,” Kanwar M Dilshad, the former ECP secretary says. “Though these appointments do not have any political impact or significance, the completion of the commission will help the body to work more efficiently and easily.”
In the recent past, a meeting of the parliamentary committee on the matter ended without a consensus. Earlier, both sides – the then government and opposition – had also moved courts over the delay in the appointments, blaming each other for the extraordinary delay. Interestingly, the member appointed from KP now had originally been nominated by the PTI.
In the recent past, a meeting of the parliamentary committee on the subject had ended without a consensus. Earlier, both sides – the then government and opposition – had moved courts over the delay in the appointments, blaming each other for it. Interestingly, the member appointed from the KP now had originally been nominated by the PTI.
Dilshad says that the failure of politicians to fulfill their constitutional responsibilities because of their inability to rise above parochial positions speaks volumes of the deepening political polarisation in the country.
“We need to learn from past mistakes and start engaging with one another for better functioning of the constitutional offices,” he says, adding, “The primary onus of initiating consultations with the opposition is on the prime minister.”
The then opposition parties, which now are in power, had alleged that the PTI regime had deliberately delayed the nomination of the four ECP members from time to time as it wanted to make the commission dysfunctional by creating hurdles in the smooth and uninterrupted hearings of foreign funding case against it.
The foreign funding case is being heard by the ECP for eight years now. After coming into power in 2018, the PTI had adopted ways and means to delay the case by taking the matter to the courts and keeping the commission incomplete. The case is being heard by the CEC and the ECP members. It is up to the CEC to constitute a bench including all members or allows only the bench constituted earlier to conclude the hearing.
The PTI is now recording its final arguments in the foreign funding case. The commission has dismissed several requests by PTI lawyers to postpone the hearing of the case. Foreign funding complaints against several other parties are also pending before the ECP.
The author is a staff reporter. He can be reached at: email@example.com Twitter: @waqargillani