WEB DESK: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is dysfunctional since the retirement of all four ECP members on June 12. Resultantly, the Commission’s routine works like ensuring empowerment of elected local government representatives, hearings in cases against alleged rigging, by-elections to the vacant seats and notification of the elected members have been held up.
And this sits well with those in power at the Centre and in provinces. Ideally, sometime ahead of retirement of the ECP commissioners the government should have made and announced their replacements. But that was not done; not because of a bureaucratic lethargic mindset, but because of the political mindset that the ECP members are open to pliability therefore they should be of their liking.
In fact, even when the now retired members’ impartiality was not accepted wholeheartedly the political leadership in power wanted something more. Therefore, instead of looking for their replacement from within the judiciary as mandated by the Constitution they hurriedly passed the 22nd Constitutional Amendment.
Now in addition to retired judges the retired civil servants and technocrats too are eligible. Of course, such an expanded pool works well in India and a number of other countries. But given the norm here that a retired civil servant should be loyal to political masters and pliable to their whims and wishes there is this undue delay in government and opposition agreeing to appoint agreed replacements.
Before the 18th Amendment was passed the President was mandated to appoint, in his discretion, an ECP member after consultations with the Chief Justice of the High Court concerned. But this amendment, which above everything else is geared towards protecting and promoting the clout of its legislators, thoroughly overhauled the relevant Article 213 adding to it (2A) which empowers the Prime Minister “in consultation with the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, send names for appointment to a parliamentary committee for hearing and confirmation of any person.” As if this was not enough to keep the ECP under its thumb the parliament then went a step further and passed the 22nd Amendment which breaks the monopoly of higher judiciary over appointments of ECP members.
But then in that the parliament has bitten more than it can chew – 33 days on the appointments of ECP members are nowhere in sight, earning a stiff call from the Supreme Court not to play with this issue of critical importance. Within 45 mandated days, that’s by July 27, the government must complete the ECP, said the apex court hearing a suo motu case in the matter.
Earlier too, in 2013 after the general election, there was a grim struggle between the government and the opposition over the appointments of ECP members, culminating in the resignation of Chief Election Commissioner Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim. But among the few who claim quality of governance did not suffer because of the prime minister’s long absence from the country is the government’s deputy chief law officer, who took plea in the apex court that members could not be appointed ‘because of the absence of presence of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’.
And the government has sent its list of nominees to the opposition as part of the proposed ‘consultative process’. But the court was not impressed by the argument. “We have nothing to do with whether consultative process under the constitution was completed or not, or the prime minister was abroad,” the Chief Justice observed, adding the court is only concerned with the constitutional provision under Article 218 that mandates there should be the ECP for election to the elected houses including parliament and provincial assemblies “which should be implemented at all costs”. July 27 is the outer date for completion of the ECP members’ appointments, and the court got to be informed of compliance with this deadline by the government when it takes it up on July 28.
Source: Business Recorder