ISLAMABAD              -        The deadlock persisted on Friday between the government and the opposition over the nomination of the chief election commissioner (CEC) and two members of the Election Commissioner of Pakistan (ECP).

The two sides held talks, facilitated by National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser in his chamber, but failed to reach a consensus, prolonging the constitutional crisis that has made the election commission redundant.

The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) remained stuck to its decision to appoint ECP Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Muhammad as the next CEC while the opposition stressed that the acceptance of this nomination would undermine their narrative that last election was rigged.

With the retirement of CEC Justice (r) Sardar Muhammad Raza Khan on Dec 5, the ECP had become non-functional. Two ECP members including Abdul Ghaffar Soomro from Sindh and Justice (r) Shakeel Baloch from Balochistan had retired on January 26.

PML-N Senator Mushahid Ullah Khan, who was part of the negotiations, told The Nation that there was “almost a deadlock” as the government was sticking to appointing Babar as the next CEC.

He said that the opposition’s narrative that 2018 General Elections were rigged would stand nowhere with this appointment as Babar was the ECP secretary when those elections were held. “I personally know Babar and he is a good man but it is a matter of our narrative,” he added.

Senator Mushahid however did not rule out the possibility of government’s withdrawing its nomination and expressed the hope that the deadlock would end by Monday. “There are some indications that perhaps the government would withdraw from its stance,” he said.

Human Rights Minister Dr Shireen Mazari, Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Azam Swati, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan and Naseeb Ullah Bazai of Balochistan Awami Party attended the meeting from government side.

On the opposition side, Ahsan Iqbal, Mushahid Ullah Khan, Khawaja Saad Rafiq and Murtaza Javed Abbasi were from PML-N while former Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and Senator Dr Sikandar Mandhro represented the PPP in the talks.

On the other hand, the parliamentary committee on appointment of CEC and ECP members headed by Dr Shireen Mazari could not meet on Friday — the third postponement in a week — and now the meeting has been scheduled for Monday.

On Wednesday, Senator Mushahid Ullah had said that it had been decided in the last meeting of the parliamentary committee that the appointments of CEC and two ECP members will be taken the same day.

Opposition Awami National Party in a statement the other day had said that it would not accept appointment of Babar as the new CEC.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information Fidous Ashiq Awan while addressing a press conference on Thursday said that the Core Committee of the PTI in a meeting expressed the hope that the opposition and government would develop a consensus on the ECP appointments.