ISLAMABAD - The government will ask the Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms to segregate the matter of appointment of ECP’s provincial members from the overall electoral reforms process, because replacements are required for the incumbent members who are retiring next month.

As part of the electoral reforms, the opposition seeks drastic changes in the appointment criteria for the Chief Election Commissioner and the four provincial members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

The overall electoral reforms being a length process, the government has drafted a bill that would enable it to appoint new ECP members before June 13, when the incumbent members would retire.

Keeping in view the urgency of the matter the Laws Review Committee meeting was called on public holiday (Sunday). The meeting chaired by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar discussed the matter in detail and reviewed progress on the draft amendment bill that has been prepared for this purpose.

The meeting was attended by Minister of State for Information Technology, Anusha Rehman Khan and Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Law, Barrister Zafarullah Khan.

The committee also discussed the Draft Apprenticeship Bill, Credit Bureaus (Amendment) Ordinance, 2016 and Public Private Partnership Authority Bill, 2016 which are pending consideration in the National Assembly and Senate.

The committee was briefed on the ECP members’ subject by Law Minister Zahid Hamid, who is also head of the technical sub-committee of the Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms (PCER).

He informed the committee about the progress made on the appointment criteria for the ECP members in the PCER which is busy in legislative work for overall reformation of the existing electoral system in the country.

He informed the committee that it was decided in the previous meeting of the PCER that in the next meeting of the committee, due in a next couple of days, the members would finalise the changes they require in the appointment procedure of the ECP members and other related matters to it.

The Laws Review Committee worked out the government strategy to deal with the whole affair and decided to seek approval of the PCER members for separating this piece of legislation from rest of the electoral reforms package keeping in view the urgency of the matter.

The incumbent provincial members of the election commission – Justice (r) Roshan Esani (Sindh), Justice (r) Riaz Kiyani (Punjab), Justice (r) Fazalur Rehman (Balochistan) and Justice (r) Shahzad Akbar Khan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) – will retire on June 13. And, it is the constitutional obligation of the government to appoint new members before their retirement.

Legal and constitutional experts said that the government would need to do the required legislation during the current session of parliament, which would remain in progress till 23rd of this month, because the next session would be budget session in which no other legislative business could be taken up.

Parliamentary sources said that in the current situation when the government and opposition parties have locked horns on the probe into Panama leaks it would not be easy to evolve consensus on the appointment of ECP members through a separate piece of legislation as the opposition would want the new appointment under new criteria.

A member of the Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms informed The Nation that it was agreed upon in the previous meeting of the sub-committee that the members of ECP could be from other walks of life as well. Right now it is mandatory that the members should be retired or serving judges of the superior judiciary.

Sources in the Parliament said that opposition parties wanted to change the whole procedure of the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and the four provincial members of ECP and give an active role to opposition parties in the appointment process.

Right now the appointment of the CEC as well as ECP members is governed by Article 213 and 218 of the constitution. The prime minister, in consultation with the opposition leader in the National Assembly, is required to forward three names each for appointment to every vacant position of ECP member “to a parliamentary committee for hearing and confirmation of any one person”.

In case, there is no consensus between the prime minister and the opposition leader, each of them shall forward separate lists to the parliamentary committee for consideration and confirmation of any one individual, as per the existing mechanism.

“The parliamentary committee to be constituted by the speaker shall comprise 50pc members from the treasury benches and 50pc from the opposition parties, based on their strength in [parliament], to be nominated by the respective parliamentary leaders,” says Article 213(2B) of the Constitution. The total strength of the committee shall be 12 members, of which one-third should be from the Senate.