ISLAMABAD - As the Supreme Court has given fifth deadline to government and opposition regarding appointment of permanent Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), retired judges who are offered the slot are not willing to avail the post keeping in view the daunting challenges ahead with limited authority in hand.

After the 18th amendment, the powers exercised by CEC have been transferred to Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) which comprises four members from four provinces with CEC also a member.

“The CEC cannot take any decision without the support of members. It means that if CEC and one member favor a decision and three members are against, it will be the majority that will call the shot,” an ECP official said.

Justice (retd) Rana Bhagwan Das and Justice (retd) Tassaduq Hussain Jilani who had been nominated by government and opposition for the slot of CEC declined the offer to what ECP officials said was the reasons that the post had to tackle some daunting challenges in near future while the post was too toothless to make any bold decision.

Under the 18th constitutional amendment, the CEC has been substituted with ECP which means that the election regulating body can make any decision without the consent of its head.

According to officials, the major challenges that will be tackled by CEC include delimitations in Sindh and Punjab and holding of local bodies elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and Punjab.

With Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) insisting on probe into rigging allegations in general elections criticizing ECP for being involved in the election fraud, pressure would mount on ECP further once CEC is appointed.

Interestingly, the CEC would have no control over the 14 Election Tribunals (ETs) established by ECP on June 3, 2013 for hearing and resolving election petitions. More than 70 cases, according to the ECP sources, are still undecided despite the lapse of more than a year.

According to ECP laws, the tribunals are supposed to dispose of election disputes within 120 days but it has been more than a year that 70 petitions are still lying in cold storage with no progress made so far.

The tribunals have been given extraordinary powers to an extent that even ECP cannot ask the tribunals about progress on election petitions. The decision made by the ETs cannot be challenged in any court of law except Supreme Court.

“It is ironic that election tribunals are headed by retired district judges but their decisions cannot be challenged in high courts. Moreover, there is no regulatory body of the tribunals and even CEC cannot ask their performance,” an official said.

He said there was a vacuum in the law as the appointing authority (ECP) was not the dismissal or regulatory body for the election tribunals. Moreover, the sources said the four members were more powerful than CEC. “You cannot remove any of the members and you have to refer their dismissal case to Supreme Judicial Council (SJC).

The CEC would have to play role in Senate elections in March 2015 besides undertaking the much-debated electoral reforms. “The slot of CEC is not a bed of roses rather the post awaits some burning issues to tackle,” an ECP official said.

A well-placed source said the slot has been offered by government and opposition to several retired judges but was declined adding that the limited powers with CEC has made the position less lucrative.