LAHORE - As the PPP and the PML-N are under the process of building consensus over appointment of a neutral head of the Election Commission of Pakistan, the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party on Monday rejected the three names recommended by the PML-N, raising questions on their neutrality.

This is in response to the reservations expressed by the PML-N over the PPP nominees on similar grounds. The PPP had earlier recommended the names of Justice (R) Munir A Sheikh, Justice (R) Amirul Mulk Mengal and Justice (R) Qurban Alvi for the coveted slot. The PML-N did not regard these as neutral persons and floated the names of Justice (R) Nasir Aslam Zahid, Fakharuddin G Ibrahim and Acting Chief Election Commissioner Justice Shakirullah Jan.

Prime Minister’s Special Assistant, Fawad Ch told a group of journalists on Monday that the three names recommended by the PML-N to the Parliamentary Committee were highly controversial and not acceptable to the government.

He said that Justice (R) Nasir Aslam Zahid was among the judges who had given a decision against then Chief Justice of Pakistan, Sajjad Ali Shah, as a result of which Mr Shah was shown the door as per wishes of the then government of PML-N. Fawad said that Justice Nasir Aslam’s bias for the PML-N was a known fact.

About Fakhruddin G Ibrahim, he questioned how a person could be considered an unbiased one when he appealed to the people only a few days back through the media to rise against the present government. On Justice Shaqirullah Jan, he said that he was a serving judge of the Supreme Court and hence should not be considered for the slot especially when he was serving as Acting CEC. He said it would be in violation of the SC’s order in Al-Jehad Trust case to appointment him as CEC.  He insisted that the three names forwarded by the government to the committee were impartial having no affiliation with any political party.

To a question, Fawad said that though there was no provision in the Constitution for seeking names from other than the parliamentary parties, the government was willing to accept some impartial person as CEC on the recommendations of the civil society. He said government was in touch with different lawyers’ bodies in this regard.

According to the 20th amendment, if the government and the Opposition fail to find a consensus candidate for CEC slot, the Parliamentary Committee would make a decision in this regard after taking names from the two sides. The 12-member parliamentary committee is headed by PPP minister Syed Khurshid Shah.

The government alliance and the opposition have been given equal representation in this body. Of these 12 members, five belong to the PML-N, three represent the PPP, while one each has been taken from JUI-F and three coalition partners – the PML-Q, MQM and ANP. Though JUI-F’s Abdul Ghafoor Haideri is member of the said committee on the strength of the opposition, he voted in favour of government’s candidate at the time of election of its chairman held recently.

Under the existing arrangement, the Parliamentary body is required to take decision about appointment of new CEC with two-thirds majority which the government did not have at the moment.

According to sources, the PPP and PML-N are having consultations to build consensus over the name of Justice (R) Sardr Raza Khan who enjoys equal respect in all political circles. But in case there is no agreement between the two, the PPP is considering to amend the relevant rules to convert the provision of “two-thirds majority” into “simple majority”, said the sources, adding that once the rules have been amended, the PPP can have its own nominee elected as CEC with the help of JUI-F member voting in its favour.