ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan and Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif are yet to initiate the process of the appointment of two members of Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) following the retirement of electoral body's two members last month while the formation of ECP remains complete despite these two retirements.

Shehbaz Sharif has expressed his willingness to hold consultations with the Premier for the appointment of the two members, Business Recorder has learnt.

However, PM Khan is yet to get in touch with the NA opposition leader over ECP members issue, it was further learnt.

In the light of the Constitution, chief election commissioner (CEC) and ECP members are appointed with a consensus between leader of the house (PM) and the leader of the opposition in the NA.

Article 213 (2) (A) reads, "The prime minister shall in consultation with the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, forward three names for appointment of the commissioner to a parliamentary committee for hearing and confirmation of any one person.

"Provided that in case there is no consensus between the prime minister and the leader of the opposition, each shall forward separate lists to the parliamentary committee for consideration which may confirm any one name."

Article 213 (2) (B) provides that parliamentary committee to be constituted by the speaker shall comprise fifty percent members from the treasury benches and fifty percent from the opposition parties, based on their strength in Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament), to be nominated by the respective parliamentary leaders.

If deadlock persists between the government and opposition over appointment of CEC, the chief justice of Pakistan (CJP) is constitutionally empowered to nominate a serving judge of the Supreme Court to act as acting CEC till the regular appointment on this position.

As per the relevant constitutional provisions, the criteria for the appointment of the CEC and four ECP members (one member is appointed from each province) is the same and the CEC and ECP members are appointed for five years with half of the members (two out of four) retiring every 2.5 years.

Constitutionally, ECP comprises of five top officials: a CEC and four members, and needs at least three for its formation to be complete enabling decisions by majority vote.

Sources in ECP told Business Recorder that ECP's formation remains unaffected with the retirement of ECP Members Justice (retired) Altaf Ibrahim Qureshi (Punjab) and Justice (retired) Irshad Qaiser(Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) last month.

"ECP still has the CEC and two members, which means the Commission is very much functional. However, workload on the CEC and two remaining members will increase as they have to hear those cases that were being heard by recently retired members," said an ECP official on the condition of anonymity.

The ECP can be left dysfunctional if it is faced with the absence of the CEC and two members or absence of three members even if CEC is at the helm.

A dysfunctional ECP means the Commission would not be empowered to hear any case related to electoral disputes and take policy decisions.

"The functions performed by the CEC and members come to a halt if ECP's formation is incomplete," the official said.

Administrative decisions like transfers and postings of ECP personnel, approvals of day-to-day affairs and other relevant matters are taken by Secretary ECP as per routine even if the ECP gets dysfunctional, the ECP source said.

On December 5, 2019, the electoral body was left dysfunctional following the retirement of CEC Justice (retired) Sardar Muhammad Raza as only two ECP members were then serving notably Altaf Qureshi and Irshad Qaiser.

Commission's formation was completed on January 27 last year when incumbent CEC Sikandar Sultan Raja and ECP members Shah Muhammad Jatoi (Sindh) and Nisar Ahmed Durrani (Balochistan) were sworn in.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021


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