ISLAMABAD: The federal government has started consultation with the opposition to appoint the four members of the Election Commission from each province.
After the retirement of four members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on June 12, the electoral process has halted across the country, including mayoral or deputy mayoral elections, by-polls in various constituencies and the notification of newly-elected parliamentarians.
The four ECP members, who retired from their office after expiry of their term, include Justice (r) Roshan Esani (Sindh), Justice (r) Riaz Kiyani (Punjab), Justice (r) Fazalur Rehman (Balochistan) and Justice (r) Shahzad Akbar Khan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa).
According to the Constitution, ECP members are appointed by the government in consultation with the opposition. As per Article 13-A and B, the prime minister and the opposition leader are bound to send three names from each province to a 12-member parliamentary committee which will pick one name for appointment as ECP member from each province.
The parliamentary committee must have equal representation of opposition and government legislators, eight members of the National Assembly (MNAs) and four Senators.
The parliament unanimously passed the 22nd Constitutional Amendment recently, under which a technocrat may now also be appointed as Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) or ECP member.
Under the amendment, no serving Supreme Court judge can serve as the acting CEC and, hence, the most senior ECP member in age will function as the acting CEC if the office is vacant at any time or if the CEC is absent or is unable to perform his or her functions due to any other cause.
Moreover, out of the four new members to be appointed, two will retire after two and a half years while the rest will complete the five-year tenure. This procedure will be adopted to ensure that all posts of the ECP members do not fall vacant at the same time in future.
The parliamentary committee on the appointment of four members recently elected Minister for Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage Senator Pervaiz Rashid as its chairman.
The committee consists of members from Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F).
The committee is expected to hold its meeting in the next couple of days.
The chief election commissioner has already postponed by-elections in five national and provincial assembly constituencies within Punjab and Sindh, due to the pending appointment of the new members.
The constituencies where polls have been postponed include NA-63 (Jhelum), NA-162 (Sahiwal), PP-232 (Vehari), PP-240 (D.G. Khan), PS-14 and PS-127 (Karachi).
The CEC has also postponed the elections of mayors/deputy mayors and chairmen/vice chairmen of local bodies in Sindh till the appointment of new members.
Moreover, local government elections and by-elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have also been postponed.
The ECP has also not issued notifications for returning candidates, including Muhammad Ashraf Warraich elected from PP-97, besides others.
The retiring members were appointed in June 2011 on a five-year term after consultations between the government and opposition parties.