ISLAMABAD - The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday suspended a presidential notification about the appointment of two ECP members and ruled that the matter be resolved by the parliament.

An IHC single bench consisting of Chief Justice Athar Minallah took up three petitions filed by Senator Javed Abbasi, MNA Dr Nisar Ahmed Cheema and Barrister Jahangir Khan Jadoon.

Justice Athar noted, “Until the next date is fixed, operation of the impugned notification dated August 22 shall remain suspended”. He ordered relisting the petition on December 12.

The court order said, “The chairman of the Senate and the worthy speaker of the National Assembly hold their respective offices as politically impartial personalities. They, as custodians of the two Houses of Majlis-e-Shoora, are expected to play an effective role to ensure that the Constitution is upheld and the Election Commission of Pakistan, one of the most important constitutional bodies, is constituted in accordance with the intent of the Constitution makers.”

Court rules the matter should be resolved by the parliament

It said, “This court records its appreciation for endeavours made so far by the worthy chairman of the Senate and worthy Speaker of the National Assembly to resolve the dispute between the treasury and the opposition benches so that eligible persons could be appointed members of the Election Commission of Pakistan. This court is confident that endeavours made by the worthy chairman of Senate and the worthy speaker of the National Assembly will amicably resolve the issue without interference by this court. Pursuant to the request made by the National Assembly secretary, the hearing is adjourned.”

Justice Athar said, “Sanctity of the parliament is undermined when matters that ought to be settled in the parliament by elected representatives of people are exposed to interference of courts.”

The court order said when political issues are not resolved within the parliament by the elected representatives of the people in a manner prescribed in the Constitution, unelected forces get an opportunity to undermine sanctity of the parliament.

“It is implicit in the oath, which each member takes before entering the office, that sanctity of the parliament will be upheld by resolving all disputes through democratic principles of decision-making,” noted Justice Athar in the order.

Earlier, the National Assembly secretary appeared before the court and stated that the speaker of the National Assembly and the chairman of the Senate held several meetings in order to resolve the issue raised in these petitions and sought adjournment to make constitutional provisions relating to the appointment of members of the ECP workable.

It was August 22 when President Arif Alvi had appointed Khalid Mehmood Siddiqui from Sindh and Munir Ahmed Kakar from Balochistan to two ECP positions, which had fallen vacant after completion of tenure of Abdul Ghaffar Soomro and Justice (r) Shakeel Baloch from the respective provinces.

The lawmakers challenged the notification issued by the President for appointment of Siddiqui and Kakar as ECP members from Sindh and Balochistan, respectively.

In their petitions, they argued before the court that since Prime Minister Imran Khan and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif had failed to develop consensus on the names of ECP members, the parliamentary committee on the appointment of the chief election commissioner and ECP members was deliberating upon the names for vacant positions in the ECP.

According to the petitions, it was a surprise for the lawmakers that instead of following the procedure laid down by the Constitution and the superior courts, President Alvi had made the appointments through his discretionary powers.

The petitions said that criteria for appointment of the chief election commissioner and ECP members had been provided in the Constitution.

The petitions contended that the notification issued for the appointment of ECP members on August 22 was in violation of Articles 213 and 218 of the Constitution.

The petitioners pointed out that due to the “grave illegality, the chief election commissioner has refused to administer oath” to the newly appointed ECP members.

According to them, there is no constitutional provision which allows the president to appoint Siddiqui and Kakar by invoking his discretionary powers. After passage of the 18th Constitution Amendment, the president has lost his discretion to appoint members of the ECP.