ISLAMABAD - The continuing disagreement between the government and opposition over the name of chief election commissioner is most likely to delay the nomination despite the impending deadline of March 19.

The government and the opposition have agreed to drop the name of Justice (Retd) Rana Bhagwandas and it has been mutually decided that the prime minister would now send three nominations to opposition leader in National Assembly for appointment of chief election commissioner (CEC).

“The prime minister will propose three names for CEC then we will deliberate on them,” Leader of Opposition Syed Khursheed Shah shared with The Nation.

About possible delay to meet deadline (19 March) set by the Supreme Court (SC), Shah confidently remarked, “Ball is in the court of government. I can definitely express my reservations over proposed names but all this depends on recommended names.”

The PPP senior lawmaker further said that he would also take other opposition parties on board about the names recommended from the government. “I had also taken input of opposition parties on the name of Justice (Retd) Bhagwandas and this time I will do repeat this practice,” he informed.

Sources said the government in three proposed names might once again float the name of Justice (Retd) Nasir Aslam Zahid as CEC, however, the opposition might not agree to it.

When contacted, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said that they had still not proposed any name to the opposition leader for CEC. “In recent past, I did not contact Shah on this issue,” he said, hinting that the issue would be deliberated in coming days.

The government and opposition have now stopped their deliberations for appointing Bhagwandas as CEC, after the opposition in Senate strongly opposed The Federal Public Service Commission (Amendment) Bill 2014, which was aimed at paving way for Bhagwandas’ appointment.

The lawmakers, mainly from PPP, termed the legislation on bill as person-specific to favour a person of own choice. However, the National Assembly has passed the FPSC (Amendment) Bill 2014.

Ostensibly the name of Bhagwandas was dropped out due to complexities associated with his case but some insiders in the government informed that once again he (Bhagwandas) had politely declined to avail the slot to be doled out to him under a person-specific legislation, the ground on which he had already refused to step in on a coveted slot of chairman NAB.

Sources said that divergence of opinion among the PPP lawmakers from Senate and National Assembly had also created impasse on the issue.

Through the proposed amendment in the FPSC Ordinance, 1977, the president can allow further employment of members of the commission to a constitutional office in public interest. At present, the members of the commission upon completion of their term were not eligible for further employment in the service of Pakistan.

When contacted, MQM spokesman Wasay Jalil said this would be good tradition if opposition leader took all opposition parties into confidence over the proposed name. “The MQM will definitely give its suggestions if asked about the suitable name for this important slot,” he added.

When contacted, PTI spokesperson Dr Shireen Mazari said the party had opposed person-specific legislation. She said Bhagwandas was a man of impeccable character but it would not be useful for a person like him to head a powerless Election Commission of Pakistan. She said all provincial chief election commissioners were political appointees and nothing could be changed unless all such appointees were replaced with neutral persons. She said if Khursheed Shah contacted PTI, it would deliberate over Bhagwandas’ name.