The decision of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), to refuse to administer the oath of two ECP members appointed by President Arif Alvi, is a setback for the government. The CEC has said that the government’s unilaterally appointing two members of the ECP is against Article 213 of the Constitution, which states that the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition should be in consensus about the appointment of ECP members. The CEC also cited a Supreme Court case which declared that a President does not have discretionary powers in the appointment of ECP members.

However, the issue is not over yet. The government is trying its best to fight back, with the Parliamentary Affairs Minister Swati saying that the President had appointed the members in a just manner, and that due to disruption and refusal to cooperate by the opposition, parliamentary committees had not been able to reach a consensus on the appointment names. He argues that since the government could not leave the ECP dysfunctional and the matter had been delayed enough, the President had, upon consulting the committees and the law ministry, made the decision. The Opposition, on the other hand, of course, is delighted by the CEC’s refusal and is trying to take matters to the extreme end by calling for the government to be held accountable for allegedly violating the constitution.

Such legal technicalities are rarely in black and white. The government does have some valid grievances- the country has suffered due to chaos and standstills in the parliament, which have led to inactivity, and insufficiency in the government. It is understandable that due to the delay in functioning of the ECP, the government was frustrated and felt there was no way out except a unilateral quick appointment.

Yet the government should understand that the provisions of the constitution cannot be taken lightly- just because the constitution does not provide a remedy for a particular situation or is vague about how to recover from a non-consensus, the government cannot just ignore the procedure laid out and set its own precedents. The point of having a parliamentary system of government is that there will be severe disagreements and deadlocks- the government will have to learn how to manoeuvre its way through the opposition’s tactics to get their bills or appointments approved. The government should take the high road in this matter and reverse the appointments made- it cannot spend the next five years with this opposition making unilateral decisions.