ISLAMABAD - The members of Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms have unanimously approved the proposed constitutional amendments relating to appointment and selection procedure of the chief election commissioner of Pakistan and four provincial members of the commission and table the same before the National Assembly today (Wednesday) for legislation.

The members from some smaller parliamentary parties had some reservations, which were removed in the light of their suggestions. After that the draft amendment bill relating to appointment procedure of chief election commissioner and the four provincial members of the commission was unanimously approved, sources aware of the deliberations of the meeting revealed.

After its approval from the lower house of the Parliament, the same would be tabled before the Senate on Thursday (tomorrow) because the upper house would be taking a break today and would resume its session on Thursday.

Talking to media persons after the meeting, the chairman of the committee, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, said three parties had some reservations over the draft amendment bill for altering the appointment criteria of the chief election commissioner and for members of the Election Commission of Pakistan, which were duly addressed in the meeting and the draft bill was approved with consensus.

Keeping in view the urgency of the matter, the portion dealing with the appointment of the members of the Election Commission of Pakistan and its chief was separated from rest of the electoral reforms , which would also be presented before the Parliament shortly because 90 percent of the work on bringing structural changes in the prevalent electoral system was complete.

It is pertinent to mention here that the incumbent provincial members of the Election Commission of Pakistan – Justice (r) Roshan Esani (Sindh), Justice (r) Riaz Kiyani (Punjab), Justice (r) Fazlur Rehman (Balochistan) and Justice (r) Shahzad Akbar Khan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) – will retire on June 13. To fulfil the constitutional obligation regarding appointment of new members before the existing memebrs’ retirement, the ruling PML-N has convinced the opposition parties to segregate the reforms relating to the appointment of the members from rest of the electoral reforms process under review of the Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms .

A number of amendments were also proposed to make the Election Commission of Pakistan more administrative and financially independent, a source aware of the deliberations of the meeting disclosed.

According to the proposed amendments approved by the committee, the chief election commissioner and its four provincial members could also be from other fields as well because under the existing laws it is mandatory that the chief election commissioner as well as its members should either be retired or serving judges of the superior courts.

Now the chief election commissioner could either be a retired or a serving judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan while a person having qualification equivalent to a superior court judge, a senior bureaucrat or a technocrat could also qualify for the post, a member of the committee pointed out.

About the provincial members of the ECP, the persons other than from the superior judiciary with qualification of being a judge, a senior bureaucrat or a technocrat could apply for the post.

It was also decided that the members of the ECP would retire in rotation and in the first instance two of the four members would retire after two and a half years term. Then in future after every half term of their mandated five years term two members would retire to keep the ECP functional.

It was further revealed that amendments in articles 222, 219, 218, 217, 215, 213 and 211 of the Constitution would be incorporated to introduce these changes.

At present, the appointment of CEC as well as ECP members is governed by articles 213 and 218 of the Constitution.

The prime minister, in consultation with the opposition leader in the National Assembly, is required to forward three names each for appointment to every vacant position of ECP members to parliamentary committee for hearing and confirmation of any one person.

In case, there is no consensus between the prime minister and the opposition leader, each of them shall forward separate lists to the parliamentary committee for consideration and confirmation of any one individual as per the existing mechanism.

“The parliamentary committee to be constituted by the speaker shall comprise 50pc members from the treasury benches and 50pc from the opposition parties, based on their strength in the parliament, to be nominated by the respective parliamentary leaders,” says Article 213(2B) of the Constitution.

The total strength of the committee shall be 12 members of whom one-third should be from the Senate.