SC moved over CEC seat

By Shakeel Ahmed
ISLAMABAD: With Chief Election Commissioner Justice (r) Sardar Raza Khan all set to retire on Thursday, the opposition parties have approached the Supreme Court (SC) over the appointment of the new CEC amid a deadlock with the government over the nomination of the new election watchdog chief.
The petition — signed by 11 members from the joint opposition — has made the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the federal government respondents in the case.
“Incumbent Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Justice (r) Sardar Raza will retire on December 06,” the petition read, adding that the commission would become dysfunctional after his retirement.
Article 213 has been silent in case the bipartisan parliamentary committee fails to reach an agreement, it said. The silence of Article 213 over the situation will create a constitutional crisis, according to the petition. “The Supreme Court is the only path in case of lack of agreement within the parliamentary panel,” the opposition petition further said.
According to the plea, remaining two members of the commission will also retire next month. The petitioners have pleaded to the apex court to take an appropriate decision over the matter to thwart a likely constitutional crisis in the country.
Reacting to the joint opposition move, Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry said that it was unfortunate if the opposition would move the apex court over the issue.
Fawad urged all parties to “show flexibility and reach a conclusion”. “If the politicians are too immature to agree upon the appointment of a single member [chief election commissioner], how will they unanimously solve bigger issues of the country?” he questioned.
Last week, Shehbaz had written a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan, suggesting names for the post of the chief election commissioner.
He had proposed the names of three personalities who are “eminently qualified” for the position that comprised former bureaucrat Nasir Mahmood Khosa, former ambassador to the US Jalil Abbas Jilani and ex-civil servant Akhlaq Ahmed Tarar.
He had maintained that PM Imran should have initiated this process of consultation a long time ago. I am starting this procedure to prevent the ECP from getting non-functional, the PML-N leader added.
Earlier, PM Office had raised objections on the names recommended by opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif for the appointment of Chief Election Commissioner. The suggested names were Nasir Mehmood Khosa, Jalil Abbas Jilani and Akhlaq Ahmed Tarar. Jaleel Abbas Jilani remained principal secretary of former premier Nawaz Sharif and worked as chief secretary Punjab under CM Shehbaz Sharif. Nasir Mehmood Khosa is considered close to the Sharif family and Akhlaq Tarar has also worked as a federal secretary.
Meanwhile, the impasse between the government and opposition on the appointment of the CEC and the Sindh and Balochistan members of the Election Commission of Pakistan continued on Wednesday, as both sides failed to reach a consensus over the issue. The parliamentary committee tasked with deciding the matter met again on Wednesday with Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari in the chair, but the meeting concluded without any progress over the issue.
According to reports, the opposition demanded that the government share its nominees for the CEC position before talks could proceed. “The opposition fears that the government may only appoint members to the two vacant seats for Sindh and Balochistan while keeping the CEC’s chair empty,” they quoted members of the meeting as saying.
Mazari, after the meeting, claimed that “consensus was developing” on the appointments of the nominees, as she dubbed the meeting “positive”.