A crucial meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on Appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and Members of Election Commission of Pakistan that was scheduled on Wednesday was postponed till today (Thursday) following serious stalemate between both the sides over the appointment of the CEC and two ECP members.
The 12-member parliamentary committee, which comprises six parliamentarians each from the treasury and opposition benches, is led by Human Rights Minister Dr Shireen Mazari.
Sources said that the opposition side refused to attend the meeting and 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 the meeting to end in stalemate.
In the committee's last meeting held on December 4, the two sides had failed to reach consensus over the appointment of the two ECP members and deferred the matter till December 11 on the pretext that the names of the new CEC and members ECP would be announced together before this meeting was again rescheduled till today (December 12).
Prior to December 4 meeting, the parliamentary committee, a day earlier on December 3, had reached consensus 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 the next meeting (held on December 4) to agree on opposition's nominee for the appointment of ECP member from Sindh too, which is also a cause of deadlock between the two sides, it is learnt.
The parliamentary committee would review the names recommended by the Prime Minister Imran Khan and Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif for the slots of CEC and members ECP from Sindh and Balochistan.
The PM has recommended incumbent Secretary ECP Babar Yaqoob Fateh Muhammad, and former federal secretaries Fazal Abbas Maken and Arif Khan for the elevation of anyone of them to the coveted slot of the CEC.
The NA opposition leader has recommended the names of former federal secretaries Nasir Mahmood Khosa, Jalil Abbas Jillani and Akhlaq Ahmad Tarar for the CEC post.
For member ECP from Sindh, the PM has recommended Justice Sadiq Bhatti (retd), Justice Noorul Haq Qureshi (retd) and Abdul Jabbar Qureshi. For member ECP from Balochistan, he has recommended Dr Faiz Kakar, Naveed Jan Baloch and Amanullah Baloch.
The NA opposition leader has suggested the names of Nisar Durrani, Justice Abdur Rasool Memon (retd) and Aurangzeb Haq for member ECP from Sindh, and Shah Mehmood Jatoi, Rauf Atta and Raheel Durrani for member ECP from Balochistan.
The CEC and ECP members are appointed with consensus between the leader of the house (PM) and leader of the opposition in NA.
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."
As per the relevant constitutional provisions, the criteria 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.
Since December 5, the ECP has been left dysfunctional following the retirement of CEC Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza (retd).
On December 6, Justice Altaf Ibrahim Qureshi (retd), a sitting ECP member from Punjab took oath as acting CEC but the ECP would remain dysfunctional due to its incomplete formation.
Constitutionally, the ECP comprises of five top officials; a CEC and four members, and needs at least three of them for its formation to complete to take decisions by majority vote. In the absence of a CEC and two members, the ECP has been left dysfunctional with only two members one of whom, the senior one in terms of age, has assumed charge of the acting CEC.
In case the deadlock persists between the government and opposition over the 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.
Even if the CEC is not appointed, the ECP can constitutionally 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 position to take decisions.