WEB DESK: As if the Supreme Court’s pressure has worked, the parliamentary committee tasked to confirm names of four new ECP members has delivered.
There was, however, no unanimity as ANP abstained from the vote while the PTI refused to vote for confirmation of names from Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; but the majority prevailed. The commission had become dysfunctional since June 12 when its all four members retired. By then the government, in agreement with the opposition, should have completed the replacement process.
But it was not done because the ECP was to ensure empowerment of elected local government representatives, which apparently didn’t suit those sitting in provincial assemblies and parliament and enjoying powers and privileges of this third-tier of governance. The viciously nurtured mindset that ECP members should be pliable to the whims and wishes of political masters also caused an inordinate delay in confirming the acceptable-to-all in the parliamentary committee.
As foot-dragging completion of Election Commission of Pakistan persisted it attracted a suo motu notice of the apex court, which warned the committee to complete the selection process by July 27, by which the mandated 45-day period was to expire. Rejecting the government law officer’s explanation for delay, the Chief Justice had sternly observed that the Supreme Court had “nothing to do with whether consultative process under the Constitution was completed or not, or the prime minister was abroad” and ordered that Article 218, which mandates there should be the Election Commission of Pakistan, “should be implemented at all costs”.
Given severe acrimony that so thoroughly permeates the country’s political landscape perhaps but for the pragmatism on the part of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Leader of Opposition Khursheed Shah the squabbling over agreed nominations would have continued. We hope that’s now behind us, and the new ECP members would take heart and stand up to the challenges that await them. And these are undoubtedly huge challenges; the one foremost among them being a petition for disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for his alleged involvement indicated in the Panama Papers. The new ECP is also expected to introduce electronic and biometric voting machines and help reform the electoral process.
Not only the files that lie unattended on their desks at the ECP for months now would test the newcomers’ compatibility with their new assignments we will also know how much justified was the rationale which forced hurried enactment of 22nd Constitutional Amendment, under which retired bureaucrats and technocrats, both mufti and khaki, can be appointed as members. For the first time, a retired bureaucrat, former federal secretary Ghaffar Soomro, will be joining the election commission as member from Sindh.
And, one more departure from the past would be the inclusion of a woman member. Former Justice Irshad Qaiser would join the commission as member representing the KP. Given the career profiles of the confirmed individuals this is the best the people could wish for. The three are retired judges of superior courts with plenty of experience, and so is the member with non-judicial background. But the ECP can be, and would be, independent only as much as the space granted to them by the country’s political elite would permit.
Ideally, quite ahead of retirement of the ECP members their replacements should have been firmed up and made public. But that was not done. The government and the opposition have taken maximum permissible time – and irresistible persuasion of the Supreme Court – to reach an agreement on selection of new members. All of this smacks of petty politics taking precedence over national objectives.
It is, perhaps, desirable that the original constitutional provision that let Chief Justice of Pakistan propose and the President approve the selection of the ECP chairman and four members should be revived. There should be provincial quota for ECP membership and that the power-addicted parliamentarians should make the final selection that should be waived also because they tend to suggest that the ECP members are liable to pliability.
Source: Business Recorder