LAHORE - As the country is under the grip of a lingering political crisis following allegations of rigging in 2013 elections, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), the main opposition party in the National Assembly, has called for an end to executive powers of provincial members of the Election Commission of Pakistan.

The PPP believes that all executive powers of the election body should lie with the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) who should exercise total control over rest of the election machinery.

As per the existing arrangement, the CEC has only the veto powers while all important decisions are taken by the provincial members on the principle of simple majority. The PPP is going to present a set of proposals to the Election Commission in the days to come also including the one about clipping the executive powers of the provincial members.

In this connection, PPP’s Secretary General Sardar Latif Khan Khosa had a meeting with newly elected CEC, Justice (retd) Sardar Muhammad Raza the other day and discussed with him issues hampering the conduct of free and fair elections. The conduct of provincial members in the last elections also came under discussion in the meeting.

“While they should be allowed to keep the judicial powers, they should not have anything to do with administrative matters,” Latif Khosa told The Nation.

He pleaded that CEC should be all powerful to make administrative decisions single-handedly because the provincial members at present were in a position to manoeuvre certain decisions in favour of a particular political party by acting in unison.

Khosa, also an eminent legal expert, quoted the example of India where the CEC enjoyed extensive administrative powers, even to the extent of high public offices whose incumbents would work under him during the election process. Latif further stated that a toothless CEC was not acceptable to the PPP.

“During the conduct of last elections, the previous CEC helplessly watched the transgression of the provincial members, the returning officers and other staff of the commission,” he alleged.

Presently, Justice (retd) Riaz Kiani, Justice (retd) Muhammad Roshan Essani, Justice (retd) Shahzad Akbar Khan and Justice (retd) Fazal-ur-Rehman are serving as provincial members in the provinces of Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan respectively. Of late, the conduct of Justice Kiani was subject of criticism by former additional secretary of the Election Commission Mr Afzal Khan who questioned his impartiality during the last elections at a TV talk show.

PTI chief Imran Khan also doubts the impartiality of the present members. He wants all of them to resign immediately to make room for neutral members.  

Talking about his recent meeting with the new CEC chief, Latif Khosa said that he (Justice Raza) wanted to streamline the affairs of election commission in consultation with all political parties. “He has asked me to put forward the proposals regarding commission’s reformation in black and white to develop political consensus,” Khosa told this scribe.