ISLAMABAD - The government and opposition parties have agreed to constitute fresh Election Commission of Pakistan (CEC), besides reducing tenure of its powerful members to three or four years.
There is consensus among all political parties in the 33-member parliamentary committee to introduce electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the next general elections, a move that has calmed down Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) which has been protesting the alleged rigging in the last year’s polls.
Informed political leaders, representing the 33-member parliamentary committee, told The Nation that an amendment in the Constitution, particularly rectification in Article 213, was inevitable for bringing down the five-year term of ECP members to three or four years.
The powerful parliamentary committee was formed by Speaker Ayaz Sadiq after he was tasked by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to take input of the joint opposition ahead of election reforms in the country.
The PTI that skipped the first meeting held in this regard on June 11 finally showed up at Friday’s meeting chaired by Speaker Ayaz Sadiq and attended by heads of all political parties.
The biggest challenge the committee discussed during the meeting was about how to purge the ECP of its existing four members that took oath on June 2011 for a five-year term.
“The current ECP is highly politicised and each of its members has certain political inclination. We need to get rid of them by curtailing their terms through an act of Parliament. And it will happen,” a senior politician, representing the opposition benches told The Nation on the condition of anonymity.
After the 18th Amendment, the government cannot terminate the services of any ECP member who is also a retired judge of a high court and only President can remove him through a reference in the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC).
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sheikh Aftab, who is also a member of the committee, said there was no such move to trim down tenure of ECP members, but added drastic steps would be taken to make the election commission completely uncontroversial and depoliticised.
“The government will abide by the recommendations of the election reforms committee. We will definitely amend the Constitution if needed,” the minister said via phone when asked about the constitutional amendments needed for reforms.
Arif Alvi of PTI which has been raising voice for election reforms told The Nation that his party wanted introduction of EVMs, voters’ identification and drastic changes in articles 213 and 209 of the Constitution pertaining to appointment of chief election commissioner (CEC) and four ECP members.
A political figure said most of politicians had agreed to constitute a totally new ECP while some had proposed that the members should be sitting judges of high courts instead of retired ones.
“After the 18th Amendment, appointment of retired judges as members has many financial implications for the ECP as each of the four members draws Rs 600,000 monthly salary, an official car, a government villa and other privileges,” an ECP official said.
Citing the example of the election authorities of India where three members and some 250 regular staff had conducted one of the biggest elections in the world, an official said ECP had over 2,200 permanent employees and five members, including CEC who is also a member.
The 33-member committee has also objected to appointment of judges as members and proposed appointment of senior bureaucrats as the ECP members or CEC as, they contend, conducting elections is an administrative exercise.