Senate panel adopts bill on ECP appointments

A parliamentary panel has approved a bill seeking amendment to Articles 213 and 215 of the Constitution that deal with the process of appointing the chief election commissioner (CEC) and the four provincial members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

The Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice on Monday took up the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2020 (Amendment of Article 213 and 215), introduced by Senator Lt General (retd) Abdul Qayyum.

Presenting the bill, Qayyum said the ECP members for Sindh and Balochistan retired in January 2019 but their positions remained vacant for a long time due to a deadlock over appointment of new members.

In view of this situation, the bill recommended that the process for appointment of the CEC and the ECP members should begin three months in advance. It said the process for new ECP appointments must be completed before the retirement of incumbent CEC and members.

If the parliamentary committee tasked with appointing the ECP officials fails to finalize the nominations for the CEC and the ECP members, the decision may be taken by the National Assembly speaker and Senate chairman within 14 days, it recommended.

The Senate committee approved the bill with some amendments.

Presenting the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2020 (Amendment of Article 93), Senator Sirajul Haq said advisers and special assistants to the prime minister should also be required to take oaths.

Siraj, who is also the chief of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), referred to the recent appointment of adviser to the PM on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh as the federal finance 0minister.

Senator Javed Abbasi, the chairman of the committee, endorsing the loophole pointed by the JI chief said an unelected person was sworn in only when he was being appointed as a minister.

Senator Waleed Iqbal, who belongs to the ruling PTI, said the PML-N government had also appointed Miftah Ismail as the finance minister in the same fashion. “Prime Minister Imran Khan has firm conviction that Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh would be elected as a senator within six months,” he added.

Taking exception to this statement, Abbasi asked how the PM could predict this even before the Senate polls. Senator Qayyum pointed out that PML-N leader Sartaj Aziz was also an adviser on national security but he worked without taking any oath.

Abbasi noted that instead of unelected people, the prime minister must take advantage of the elected people in his party. “Unfortunately, every government gives preference to unelected people.”

During the meeting, the representatives from the Ministry for Law opposed the bill moved by Sirajul Haq. The amendments bill by the JI chief and the bill seeking amendments in Enforcement of Property Rights for Women proposed by Senator Javed Abbasi were deferred for further consideration.

Senator Sana Jamali, Senator Sirajul Haq, Senator Walid Iqbal, Senator Zeeshan Khanzada and senior officers of the Ministry of Law and Justice and Ministry of Interior attended the meeting.

(This story has been published from The Express Tribune feed, without modifications to the text)