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A fresh crisis has hit the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) as Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza (retd) has refused to administer oath to the two newly-appointed members of the ECP, Khalid Mahmood Siddiqui from Sindh and Munir Ahmad Kakar from Balochistan, citing the violation of the Constitution in the appointment of these two members by the government.

President Arif Alvi has approved the appointments of these two members from Sindh and Balochistan following which they have already been notified by the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs. In a letter written to the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs on Friday, the CEC conveyed his refusal to administer the oath to the newly-appointed members of the ECP, saying that the respective appointments are not in accordance with the Article 213 of the Constitution of Pakistan, informed sources in the ECP told Business Recorder.

The Article 213 reads, "(2 A) The Prime Minister shall in consultation with the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, forward three names for appointment of the Commissioner to a Parliamentary Committee for hearing and confirmation of any one person. "(2B) The Parliamentary Committee to be constituted by the Speaker shall comprise fifty percent members from the Treasury Benches and fifty percent from the Opposition Parties, based on their strength in Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament), to be nominated by the respective Parliamentary Leaders:

"Provided that in case there is no consensus between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, each shall forward separate lists to the Parliamentary Committee for consideration which may confirm any one name."

In the light of relevant constitutional provisions, the criteria for the appointment of the CEC and the four ECP members (one member is appointed from each province) is the same and the CEC and ECP members are appointed for five years with half of the members (two out of four) tend to retire after 2.5 years.

The Article 215 (1) reads, "Term of office of Commissioner (and members)-(1) The Commissioner 2 (and a member) shall, subject to this Article, hold office for a term of 3(five) years from the day he enters upon his office: Provided that two of the members shall retire after the expiration of first two and a half years and two shall retire after the expiration of the next two and a half years." In January this year, two ECP members Abdul Ghaffar Soomro from Sindh and Shakeel Baloch from Balochistan retired following the completion of their five-year respective terms.

In the light of relevant constitutional provisions, the new ECP members were required to be appointed within 45 days. However, consensus failed to be reached between Prime Minister Imran Khan and Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif over the appointment of two ECP members following which the matter landed in the related parliamentary committee. Despite considering several names, the parliamentary committee too failed to reach consensus on appointment of the two ECP members.

After almost eight months, the President approved the appointments of Siddiqui and Kakar as ECP members from Sindh and Balochistan respectively. "The President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is pleased to appoint the following persons as Members of the Election Commission of Pakistan," read a press release from Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, to notify the appointments of Siddiqui and Kakar, issued earlier on Thursday.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People's Party (PPP) said the opposition parties have not been consulted in the appointments of the two ECP members which, they said, is a violation of the Constitution. The opposition parties have welcomed the CEC's decision to refuse administering oath to the two ECP members.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019

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