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Thursday, February 15, 2024

President Alvi appoints 2 ECP members: Is it “unconstitutional”?

News Analysis |

The government has finally appointed the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) for Balochistan and Sindh members on Thursday. The appointment was due but due to political uncertainty and external challenges the country is facing at the moment, it took time. The opposition parties criticized the move and termed it a ‘controversial’ step which is not good for democratic political process evolving in Pakistan.

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 any single name which led to the political deadlock.

However, on Thursday a notification was issued which mentioned that the government has appointed the members. “The president has Khalid Mehmood Siddiqui has been appointed from Sindh and Munir Ahmed Khan Kakar has been appointed as a member from Balochistan,” said a statement issued by the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs.

The premier proposed the names and the President confirmed their appointment. It cannot be challenged on the basis of some customary norms being practiced in the parliament of Pakistan.

“In pursuance of paragraph (b) of clause (2) of Article 215 thereof, the President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is pleased to appoint the following persons as Members of the Election Commission of Pakistan,” read the handout.

Moreover, the last meeting of the bipartisan 12-member parliamentary committee on appointment of ECP members held over a month ago had ended in a stalemate. Under Articles 213 and 218, the prime minister in consultation with the opposition leader forwards three names for the appointment of a CEC or commission member to the parliamentary committee for confirmation of one name.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has always been of the view that in the past both opposition and government would have been defending each other’s’ corruption and misuse of authority. Therefore, he maintains, they have been posting corrupt official through mutual consultation to carry out their agenda. This is why the premier was initially not willing to let Shehbaz Sharif, President of Pakistan Muslims League-Nawaz (PML-N) become the chairman of National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee. However, he was later convinced to agree with Shehbaz’s name so that the assembly may work without any disruption.

Opposition’s Response

Reacting to the appointment, 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.

Read more: PTI petitions ECP for Faryal Talpur’s disqualification

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Khursheed Shah said the opposition was kept in dark regarding the appointments who should have been done in consultation with it. 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.”

Furthermore, it is important to recall that the chief election commissioner, Sardar Raza Khan, will be retiring by the end of this year after completing his tenure. The chief election commissioner is generally appointed after mutual consultation between the opposition and government.

Analysts believe that in the present case, there are grim chances of getting PM Khan’s government and joint opposition on the same page. Therefore, the appointment of the chief election commissioner may also lead to political deadlock. Generally opposition parties agree with what the government has to propose but in return they seek the support for their political interests. At the moment, PM Khan has refused to offer any concession to the opposition on the matter of accountability which is likely to dominate the debate on the appointment of the chief election commissioner.

Read more: PM Khan responds to ECP’s show-cause notice over Ghotki visit

Unconstitutional Move?

The opposition has exaggerated the development since it is according to the constitution and set principles of law. The premier proposed the names and the President confirmed their appointment. It cannot be challenged on the basis of some customary norms being practiced in the parliament of Pakistan.