ISLAMABAD    -   Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif is likely to engage in consultation with Prime Minister Imran Khan today (Thursday) on the pending matter of appointment of two members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

Prime Minister had recently made an attempt to engage opposition leader in consultation over the appointment of two members of ECP from Sindh and Balochistan but the latter criticised the act of written communication.

The prime minister, after the expiry of deadline for the appointment on two vacant seats, had not engaged in consultation with opposition leader in person but wrote a letter.

Imran had suggested the names of Aman Ullah Baloch (former district and sessions judge, Quetta), Munir Kakar (a lawyer) and Mir Naveed Jan Baloch (a former caretaker minister) for their nomination as a member of the ECP from Balochistan.

For Sindh, he proposed the names of Khalid Mehmood Siddiqui, a lawyer; Justice (retd) Farrukh Zia Sheikh, a former judge of the Sindh High Court; and Iqbal Mehmood, retired inspector general of Sindh, for their nomination as a member of the ECP from Sindh. The opposition leader had opposed Prime Minister Khan’s act of consulting him through writing a letter.

Sharif had conveyed reservations over delay in the appointment of the ECP members from Sindh and Balochistan owing to reluctance of the prime minister to hold direct consultation with him.

Talking to The Nation, PML-N’s central leader Ahsan Iqbal said Prime Minister Imran Khan had not adopted constitutional way of consulting opposition leader in the National Assembly for the appointment of vacant seats.

“There is a legal requirement of mutual discussions on the names of seats between the opposition leader and the leader of the house,” he said, mentioning that both the seats were vacant due to ‘non-serious attitude’ of the government side. PML-N MNA informed that opposition leader Shehbaz would come up with his response tomorrow on this important matter. 

The opposition parties in the Parliament had already expressed concerns that delay in appointment of ECP members may lead to a ‘constitutional crisis.’

The ECP members Abdul Ghaffar Soomro and Justice retired Shakeel Baloch from Sindh and Balochistan had retired on January 26, 2019 and their replacements under the Constitution should have been appointed by March 12, 2019. The government has missed constitutional deadline for appointing the members within 45 days.

According to article 215(4) of the Constitution, “Vacancy in the office of the commissioner or a member shall be filled within 45 days.” Around a month has passed after the expiry of the deadline and matter is still hanging in the balance.

Under the prescribed rules and procedures (Articles 213 and 218 of the Constitution), “The PM in consultation with the opposition leader forwards three names for the appointment of the chief election commissioner or a commission [ECP] member to a parliamentary committee for hearing and confirmation of one name.”

Political experts believed that the government and opposition would be able to resolve this matter before the upcoming National Assembly session starting from April 12. The government side might proceed to appoint both members, they said, if the opposition leader will not agree on consultation process through ‘written communication.’