Acting Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) former Justice Altaf Ibrahim Qureshi has elevated Zafar Iqbal Hussain as secretary Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) from the position of Chief Election Commissioner Punjab, following the extended retirement of Babar Yaqoob Fateh Muhammad as the secretary ECP today (Tuesday).
A notification regarding the appointment of the new secretary ECP was issued by the ECP's Deputy Director Establishment-I Waseem Ahmed on behalf of the acting CEC on Monday.
Unlike his predecessor who belonged to Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS), the new secretary ECP is a career ECP officer who held important positions in the commission including Provincial Election Commissioner Punjab in Basic Pay Scale-21.
Babar Yaqoob was appointed Secretary ECP in April 2015. He had reached the age of superannuation in October 2015 but was given extension in service for an unprecedented term of three years which expired last year. He was given another extension in service till December 31 this year (today).
As a PAS officer, prior to his appointment as secretary ECP, Yaqoob served on key positions including chief secretary Punjab, chief secretary Balochistan, Secretary Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan, secretary ports and shipping, and secretary Cabinet Division.
Sources in the ECP told Business Recorder that Yaqoob was a potential candidate to get a third extension in service as secretary ECP but he was not granted extension keeping in view that he is Prime Minister Imran Khan's one of the three nominees for the position of the CEC and the federal government is strongly pushing for his elevation on the coveted slot.
Along with former Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza, the recently retired CEC, Yaqoob as secretary ECP had played a key role in the conduct of the general elections 2018.
Apart from Yaqoob, the PM's other two recommendations for the coveted slot of the CEC are former federal secretaries Fazal Abbas Maken and Arif Khan.
Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif has recommended the names of former federal secretaries Nasir Mahmood Khosa, Jalil Abbas Jillani and Akhlaq Ahmad Tarar for the CEC post.
Since December 5, the ECP has been left dysfunctional following the retirement of CEC former Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza.
On December 6, former Justice Altaf Ibrahim Qureshi, a sitting ECP member from Punjab took oath as acting CEC but the ECP remains dysfunctional due to its incomplete formation.
A dysfunctional ECP means the Commission would not be empowered to hear any cases related to electoral disputes and take policy decisions, an ECP source told Business Recorder. "The functions performed by the CEC and members have come to a halt," the insider said.However, the administrative decisions like transfers and postings of ECP personnel, approvals of day-to-day affairs and other relevant matters are taken by the secretary ECP which would continue as per routine, the ECP source said.
The proceedings of ECP Scrutiny Committee hearing foreign funding case have also not been affected by the incomplete formation of the ECP keeping in view that the case is not heard by the CEC and/or ECP members, the ECP official said.
The three-member Scrutiny Committee which is hearing foreign funding case related to three major political parties - Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) - is headed by ECP's Director General (Law) Muhammad Arshad as its chairman and includes DG (Audit) Defence Services Masood Akhtar Sherwani and Controller Accounts Air Force Muhammad Faheem as its members.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2019