ISLAMABAD - The formal consultation has started between the government and opposition on the appointment of provincial members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah met a couple of days back and discussed the appointment of four members of the ECP – one from each province.

Sources informed The Nation that it was decided in the meeting that Shah would consult other opposition parties and bring a list of candidates from the opposition side while Dar would consult ruling coalition partners for consensus candidates from the government side, and then the two leaders would sit together again to evolve a government-opposition consensus on the appointments.

They said that in case of Sindh the main say would be that of the Pakistan People’s Party but PPP would likely take onboard the main opposition party MQM, though it is not constitutionally essential.

The opposition side wants to proceed on the matter with consensus not only to give regional parties a voice in these appointments but also to keep unity among its ranks for the impending showdown with the government on Panam leaks, a source in the PPP informed.

They informed that PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has advised Shah to speed up the process to make ECP functional by early next month so it could take up the disqualification references against the ruling family – PM Nawaz Sharif, Punjab CM Shehbaz Sharif, Ishaq Dar, Captain Safdar and Hamza Shehbaz for giving false information to Election Commission. PPP central leader Barrister Latif Khosa would file the references tomorrow (Monday) with the ECP.

PTI has already filed disqualification reference against the prime minister with the ECP but as the commission cannot take up the reference for regular hearing until the provincial members are appointed

A PML-N source informed that ruling party may propose some technocrats or retired bureaucrats for Punjab slot, as before the passage of 22nd Amendment only retired judges of superior courts could occupy ECP top slots.

PPP sources informed that as the opposition wanted to make the commission functional at the earliest, Shah would try to have a smooth sailing provided reciprocation from the government side.

As per constitution the appointment process should be completed within 45 days so the matter could be delayed by either side by end of next month at maximum as the outgoing members retired on June 12.

In case of disagreement between the Leader of the House and Leader of Opposition, they should send a separate list of three against each vacancy to let the 12-member parliamentary committee to decide with majority vote from both these lists.

After Rajwana’s becoming Punjab governor, the committee last week elected Information Minister Pervaiz Rasheed as its new chairman.

The committee having equal representation from treasury and opposition would also have one-third of its members from Senate.