ISLAMABAD - The aspiration of prime minister and his PTI-led ruling alliance to seek early local government elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces would remain immaterial until a permanent Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is reconstituted.

Sources in the ECP told The Nation on Saturday that there is no power or authority except the Election Commission of Pakistan which can hold elections either to both Houses of Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament), provincial assemblies or other public offices as may be specified by law under Article 218 of the Constitution.

“If the government desires to seek LG polls at the earliest, it will have to reconstitute a permanent Election Commission of Pakistan for that purpose at the earliest,” a senior official clarified.   

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) remains dysfunctional since 8th December following retirement of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) on December 7, and as per rules there has been no consensus so far over the appointment of the CEC and two ECP members.

Two members of the ECP including Abdul Ghaffar Soomro from Sindh and Shakeel Baloch from Balochistan retired in January this year and there has been no consensus so far between the government and the opposition as per procedure laid down in the constitution to fill the vacant posts of the CEC and two members of the ECP.

ECP remains dysfunctional since December 8

Sources further said that no government - federal or provincial - could hold election even on a vacant post of councillor of village council. So there was no question of fresh elections of local governments which have already completed their lawful term.

Since there has been no consensus between the prime minister and the leader of opposition as required under the constitution, the matter was referred to a parliamentary committee to sort out the issue, but so far there is no progress.

The Article 213 of the Constitution says, “(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 50 percent members from the treasury benches and 50 percent from the opposition parties, based on their strength in Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament), to be nominated by the respective parliamentary leaders,” it reads.

It further reads, “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.

Interestingly, the federal government and the ECP had locked horns in August when the then Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) former Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza had declined to administer oath to two ECP members Khalid Mahmood Siddiqui from Sindh and Munir Ahmad Kakar from Balochistan, citing violation of Constitution in the appointment of these two members by President Arif Alvi on August 22.

The matter was taken to the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on 14th October which had ordered that issue of the appointment of two members of the ECP should be sent to the parliament for resolution as per laid down procedure in the constitution. But there is no progress on the issue because of lack of consensus between government and the opposition.