News Analysis |
In a controversial move, the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), retired Justice Sardar Mohammad Raza, has refused to administer the oath of office to the newly appointed members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
According to media reports, the CEC believes that the appointment of the two members was not in line with the country’s constitution. However, law minister has made it clear that the CEC does not have any authority to evaluate the decisions of the government or the notifications it has issued.
It is important to mention that two days ago, the government-appointed ECP’s members for Balochistan and Sindh. The appointment was due but due to political uncertainty and external challenges, the country is facing at the moment, and took time.
According to details, Abdul Ghaffar Soomro and Justice (r) Shakeel Baloch, the ECP members from Sindh and Balochistan, retired in January. Their successors should have been appointed within 45 days of their retirement; however, it faced an inordinate delay because of a rift between the opposition and the government over the proposed names. Both sides did not agree to any single name which led to the political deadlock.
The CEC’s refusal to administer oath to the ‘unconstitutionally’ appointed members was termed unconstitutional by the law minister, who argued that the CEC had no authority to examine the validity of government notifications.
The opposition parties criticized the move and termed it a ‘controversial’ step which is not good for democratic political process evolving in Pakistan.
— Kamran bhatti (@kamranbhatti888) August 22, 2019
Sources claim that Khalid Mehmood Siddiqui and Munir Ahmad Kakar arrived at the ECP headquarters to formally assume charge, but returned dismayed. The CEC refused to entertain them. Both members reportedly went to ECP Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Mohammad’s office along with their joining reports, the secretary conveyed to them the CEC’s views on their appointment and a communication he had sent to the ministry of parliamentary affairs.
In his letter to the ministry, the CEC had observed that the appointment of ECP members was not in accordance with the relevant articles of the Constitution, the sources said.
The CEC also cited a judgment rendered by a five-member bench of the Supreme Court in 2013, holding that the president does not enjoy discretionary power in appointment of CEC and ECP members. He made it clear that he would not administer oath to the ‘unconstitutionally’ appointed members. Separate letters were also sent to Mr Siddiqui and Mr Kakar, asserting that their joining reports were of no consequence.
The CEC’s refusal to administer oath to the ‘unconstitutionally’ appointed members was termed unconstitutional by the law minister, who argued that the CEC had no authority to examine the validity of government notifications. However, the opposition parties praised the CEC for upholding the supremacy of the Constitution and the parliament.
Earlier, PML-N’s Spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb termed the notification of their appointment “unconstitutional”. She said the appointment of the two members bypassed the parliamentary committee formed over the issue. She was alluding to the government’s inability to convince the opposition on any three names.
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Khursheed Shah said the opposition was kept in the dark regarding the appointments, who should have been consulted. He questioned the independence of the election watchdog after the move, saying: “With such a decision, the ECP will no longer remain independent and impartial.”