Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday made three nominations for the appointment of the chief election commissioner as CEC former Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza reached the age of superannuation the same day, a development that has left the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) dysfunctional.
The PM has recommended Babar Yaqoob Fateh Muhammad, Fazal Abbas Maken and Arif Khan for the elevation of anyone of them to the coveted slot of the CEC. Babar Yaqoob is the incumbent secretary of the ECP while both Maken and Khan are former federal secretaries.
Last week, Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif recommended the names of former federal secretaries Nasir Mahmood Khosa, Jalil Abbas Jillani and Akhlaq Ahmad Tarar for the CEC post.
Following the retirement of the CEC, ECP member from Punjab Altaf Ibrahim Qureshi, who is the senior-most of the two ECP members in terms of age, is expected to assume charge of the acting CEC today (Friday), however, the ECP would remain dysfunctional due to its incomplete formation, sources in ECP told Business Recorder.
Constitutionally, the ECP comprises five officials including a CEC and four members, and needs at least three officials for its formation to complete, sources said. In the absence of a CEC and two members, the ECP would be left with only two members one of whom would assume charge of the acting CEC. This implies that the formation of the ECP would remain incomplete and it would be rendered dysfunctional from today (Friday), sources said. Even if the CEC is not appointed, the ECP can remain functional if the PM and NA opposition leader come together to get the two ECP members appointed, which means that the ECP will have four members and would be in a position to take decisions even if the CEC retires.
Earlier on Wednesday last, the Parliamentary Committee on Appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and Members of Election Commission of Pakistan failed to reach consensus on the appointment of two ECP members and deferred the matter till next week on the pretext that the names of the new CEC and members ECP would be announced together.
The 12-member parliamentary committee which comprises six legislators each from the treasury and opposition benches had reached consensus, in its previous meeting held on Tuesday last over the appointment of government's nominee Naveed Jan Baloch as ECP member from Balochistan and it was expected that the government and opposition would come together in Wednesday's meeting to agree on opposition's nominee for the appointment of ECP member from Sindh.
Sources told Business Recorder that in Tuesday's meeting, the government asked the opposition to support government's candidate as ECP member from Balochistan, and, in return, was willing to accept opposition's nominee as ECP member from Sindh. But on Wednesday, the government stressed on opposition to agree to government's nomination for the position of member ECP for Sindh too. Reportedly, the opposition members conveyed to the treasury benches if the government wanted its candidates to be appointed as two ECP members then it should agree to any of the opposition's nominations for the CEC slot, which the government refused, resulting in the meeting to end in a stalemate.
Piqued by the government's stance, the joint opposition moved the Supreme Court on Wednesday for the appointment of the CEC.
Last week, the PM and NA opposition leader recommended separate names for the appointment of two ECP members from Sindh and Balochistan.
In reply to a joint letter from Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani and Speaker NA Asad Qaiser asking both the PM and opposition leader in NA to send their respective nominations for the appointment of two ECP members, the PM recommended the names of former Justice Sadiq Bhatti, former Justice Noorul Haq Qureshi and Abdul Jabbar Qureshi for the position of member ECP from Sindh and Dr Faiz Kakar, Naveed Jan Baloch and Amanullah Baloch for member ECP position from Balochistan.
The NA opposition leader suggested the names of Nisar Durrani, former Justice Abdur Rasool Memon and Aurangzeb Haq for the position of member ECP from Sindh, and Shah Mehmood Jatoi, Rauf Atta and Raheel Durrani for the same position from Balochistan.
The CEC and ECP members are appointed with consensus between the leader of the house and leader of the opposition in National Assembly.
The Article 213 reads, "(2 A) 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.
"Article (2B) The 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:
"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."
In the light of relevant constitutional provisions, the criterion for the appointment of the CEC and the 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 after 2.5 years.