The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday issued directions for the parliament to resolve the deadlock over the appointment of members of Election Commission of Pakistan within 10 days.
During the hearing of a petition challenging the appointments, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah appreciated the efforts made by National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser and Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani to resolve the deadlock and said: “National Assembly speaker and Senate chairman are neutral and they can end the deadlock between the opposition and the government.”
The additional attorney general had requested the court for more time, saying that the seventh meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on Appointment of Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Members of the Election Commission of Pakistan was held yesterday.
During the proceedings, Justice Minallah asked PML-N leader Mohsin Shahnawaz Ranjha if a petition in this regard had been filed in the Supreme Court. Members of opposition parties had filed a petition in the top court on Wednesday, requesting it to “pass an appropriate order” in the wake of an impasse in parliament on the appointment of the CEC and two ECP members.
“[I] don’t understand why you have gone to court when the matter is moving towards a solution,” he remarked.
“Why do you bring such matters in court? It is beyond understanding; everything is in your hands, you are an elected representative, solve matters yourself.”
The judge further said that while it was “easy to hear the case”, the court wanted to “see a strong parliament”.
“You shouldn’t come to us, instead resolve all conflicts in the parliament. We want to see a strong parliament and you have to do it,” the IHC chief justice said.
Justice Minallah also observed that the CEC position was an important one and the government and opposition should come together to end the impasse on his appointment.
The hearing of the case was adjourned until December 17.
Deadlock on ECP members
The positions of ECP members from Sindh and Balochistan have been lying vacant since the retirement of Abdul Ghaffar Soomro and retired Justice Shakeel Baloch in January, owing to a deadlock between the government and the opposition over the appointment of the members.
After the government and opposition failed to reach a consensus over the names, President Dr Arif Alvi on August 22 appointed the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s nominees as ECP members, giving way to controversy. Matters worsened when incumbent CEC Sardar retired Justice Sardar Mohammad Raza refused to administer the oath to the members appointed by the president. A case against the appointments was also filed in the IHC.
The high court, in October, ordered that the matter be resolved in the parliament, following which Qaiser and Sanjrani held meetings to find a way to end the deadlock.
Furthermore, the bicameral and bipartisan committee of parliament, headed by Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari, have held meetings to consider names of ECP members from Sindh and Balochistan that have been recommended by Prime Minister Imran Khan and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif. Both Shehbaz and Prime Minister Imran have separately recommended three names for the positions of the members.
A deadlock, however, has persisted with contradictory claims from both the government and the opposition.
The government and opposition have also not been able to reach a consensus over the next CEC ahead of Raza’s retirement on December 6.