ISLAMABAD  - The recently resigned Chief Election Commissioner Justice (r) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim is the third top electoral official to have held reported concerns on the Supreme Court’s style of functioning with regard to the ECP affairs and the second one to have stepped down out of these reservations.

Earlier, the former CEC and Ebrahim’s predecessor Justice (r) Hamid Ali Mirza and the incumbent Secretary Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Ishtiak Ahmad Khan had shared the similar kind of concerns on separate occasions.

“This is not a new phenomena. There are deep-rooted concerns involving the SC style of working towards a constitutionally independent and autonomous body, the Election Commission of Pakistan,” said former secretary ECP Kanwar Dilshad while talking to The Nation here on Thursday.

“The problem can be redressed provided that better sense prevails within the state institutions and they exhibit responsibility so as not to traverse into the domain of other state organs,” he said.

In January last year, the Supreme Court had barred the ECP from holding by-elections in certain constituencies on the previous voter lists (which were intact then) while the new voter lists were not prepared. Justice (r) Hamid Ali Mirza had strongly reacted to the court’s ruling while categorically terming it unconstitutional step amounting to interference in the ECP authority.

“This is an unconstitutional step. The Election Commission of Pakistan is an independent body and is completely autonomous in taking any decision regarding electoral rolls. Every organ of the state should act within its limits. The ECP is as important as Supreme Court, as independent and respectable as SC and people and political parties stood by the ECP the same way they stand by the apex court,” he had observed during a consultative meeting with the political parties followed by a press briefing on January 23, 2012. The political parties had extended their full support to the ECP on the voter lists issue.

On March 1, last year, Secretary ECP Ishtiak Ahmad Khan had stepped down while sharing his grievances regarding the meddling on part of a state institution into the ECP affairs, in an impliedly obvious reference to the SC. “Colossal damage was done to this great country in the past as well by a few megalomaniacs having a false and misconceived notion that they knew everything, that they were the best judges as to what was good for this poor nation, and the results are before our eyes all around us jolting the foundation of the state,” Khan had said in his letter addressed to the CEC and the prime minister, as leaked in some media reports.

“If one institution is to run all other institutions of the state, then all others should be closed down so that claiming to be all knowing and to be the latest breed of people called ‘guardians’ should also assume responsibility and account for the obvious and tragic consequences that will naturally emanate from such adventurism,” read the extracts of Ishtiak Khan’s letter.

“Attempts by one institution to encroach upon the domains of other state institutions, in violation of clearly defined roles laid down in the Constitution, will only lead to disruption of the democratic system and chaos in society,” the letter said.

“The country cannot afford any such fresh adventurism in some new garb and thus, the ECP must thwart all such attempts to protect its independence and autonomy as granted by the Parliament through the constitution.”

This had drawn ire from the SC, which believed the letter was an attempt to ‘malign’ it.

“You have tried to undermine the authority of the Supreme Court. We will examine the letter and proceed on this matter separately,” Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry had told Ishtiak Khan on March 6 last year while hearing a related case. In his reply, secretary ECP had made it clear that his letter had nothing to do with the SC performance and it was sent to the competent authority as per rules.

The federal government had refused to accept Ishtiak Ahmad Khan’s resignation while reportedly contending that an officer with the level of competence and integrity as Ishtiak’s was very much required at the ECP, following which, the secretary resumed his duties.

And finally on July 31, 2013, Fakhruddin G Ebrahim bade farewell to the CEC-ship against the backdrop of his reported resentment regarding SC decisions involving ECP.

The CEC had reportedly decided to resign after the SC had revised the presidential election date. Ebrahim wanted to keep the presidential poll date unchanged but was not supported by his associates in this regard, purportedly.

The ECP insiders say, Ebrahim had first decided to resign in April this year when the SC was hearing a case on voting right to overseas Pakistanis. On the reported requests of secretary ECP and the four commission members, the former SC judge is said to have deferred his decision till the May 11 elections. He had purportedly decided to continue after the general elections, till the presidential election date controversy prompted him to change his mind and call it a day.