ISLAMABAD - The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday granted 10-day time to government and opposition to resolve matter pertaining to appointment of chief election commissioner (CEC) and two Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) members.

A single bench of IHC comprising Chief Justice of IHC Justice Athar Minalla conducted hearing of three petitions filed by two lawmakers, including Senator Mohammad Javed Abbasi and Member National Assembly (MNA) Dr Nisar Ahmed Cheema and a lawyer Barrister Jahangir Khan Jadoon and issued the directions.

The IHC bench noted in its order: “This court is confident that every elected representative, particularly leaders of the House and opposition will restore people’s confidence in the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) by recommending the most eligible persons for being appointed to the Election Commission of Pakistan as its members and the chief election commissioner without intervention of this court. This court has no reason to doubt that the elected representatives in the Parliament will not allow the Election Commission of Pakistan, one of the most important constitutional forums, to become dysfunctional.”

The bench directed the registrar office to relist the petitions on December 17.

During the hearing, Secretary National Assembly Tahir Hussain appeared before the court and described in detail the efforts made by the National Assembly speaker and Senate chairman regarding the process for appointment of CEC and members of the commission.

Tahir Hussain told the court that treasury as well as opposition benches had responded positively and, therefore, he had requested that some more time be given so that the matter could be resolved amicably.

The IHC said in the order: “One of the petitioners, who is an elected representative from the opposition benches, has also appeared and confirmed that the progress made so far has been encouraging and that it is expected that the process will be completed before the next date of hearing.”

It added, “This court records its appreciation for the role played by the speaker of National Assembly and the Senate chairman in resolving the disputes between the two sides and it is noted that the, dignity, authority and supremacy of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) is of paramount importance.”

“Intervention by the courts is neither desirable nor in consonance with the status of the Parliament and spirit of the Constitution in matters which exclusively fall within its domain. The elected representatives owe a duty to the people of Pakistan to uphold the dignity and supremacy of the Parliament. It is their obligation to ensure that people’s confidence in the Parliament is maintained. This can only be achieved if the disputes are resolved without involving the courts,” maintained the court order.

The bench continued that even if there was any vacuum or gap in the procedure prescribed in the Constitution, it was an obligation of the members to find a solution because they had been elected by the people of Pakistan and empowered not only to legislate but to amend the Constitution as well.

“Why do we use to remember (late) Nelson Mandela for good as he had pardoned everyone. Nelson Mandela forgave everyone after spending 24 years in jail. Judiciary has a responsibility to remove legal flaws and the issue could be resolved within one week.”

The order said, “It is for the above reasons that this court has exercised restraint in deciding these petitions and the matter was referred to the National Assembly speaker and Senate chairman. The leaders of the House and opposition in the National Assembly owe it to the people of Pakistan to rise to the occasion and ensure that the dignity, sanctity and supremacy of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) is not undermined.”

On the previous hearing, the IHC bench had suspended a presidential notification of the appointment of two Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) members and directed that the matter be solved by the Parliament.

The petitioners, including Senator Mohammad Javed Abbasi and Member National Assembly (MNA) Dr Nisar Ahmed Cheema are also members of the parliamentary committee that recommends names of ECP members.

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

 

The lawmakers challenged the notification issued by the president for the 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 Shehbaz 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 specified 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.

Petitioners pointed out that due to the “grave illegality, the chief election commissioner had refused to administer oath” to the newly-appointed ECP members.

According to them, there was no constitutional provision which allowed the president to appoint Siddiqui and Kakar by invoking his discretionary powers. After passage of the 18th Constitutional Amendment, the President had lost his discretion to appoint members of the ECP.

The lawmakers said that the president, prime minister and parliamentary affairs secretary could not complete the constitutional process as a five-member Supreme Court bench had specifically provided guidelines for appointments in the ECP.

They added that the appointment of both ECP members-designate had been made without following the due process and that it was marred with nepotism and favouritism. They requested the court to set aside these appointments.

They made President Alvi, Prime Minister Imran Khan, and the parliamentary affairs secretary, CEC, Siddiqui and Kakar as respondents.

Their petitions said that the president’s decision to appoint the two ECP members was unconstitutional as it was issued “in violation of clauses 2A and 2B of Article 213 of the Constitution”.