Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) chief retired judge Sardar Mohamed Raza has refused to administer the oath of office to the newly-appointed members of the electoral authority, saying that their appointment was against the Constitution.
The two members, who had been appointed by President Dr Arif Alvi a day earlier, had arrived at the ECP headquarters to formally assume charge.
Law Minister Barrister Farogh Naseem has described the ECP chief’s decision not to administer the oath to the president’s appointees as unconstitutional.
He said that Raza had neither the justification nor the authority to examine the validity of the notification.
However, the opposition parties have praised Raza for upholding the supremacy of the Constitution and parliament.
Informed sources said that when Khalid Mehmood Siddiqui and Munir Ahmad Kakar went to ECP secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Mohamed’s office along with their joining reports, the secretary conveyed to them Raza’s views on their appointment and a communication that he had sent to the ministry of parliamentary affairs.
In his letter to the ministry, Raza had observed that the appointment of ECP members was not in accordance with the relevant articles of the Constitution, the sources said.
The ECP chief also cited a judgment rendered by a five-member bench of the Supreme Court in 2013, holding that the president does not enjoy discretionary power in the appointment of the electoral authority’s chief and its members.
He made it clear that he would not administer oath to the “unconstitutionally” appointed members.
Separate letters were also sent to Siddiqui and Kakar, asserting that their joining reports were of no consequence.
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) welcomed the Raza’s decision not to administer the oath to the two men, saying that the ECP had set an example by rejecting the “unconstitutional” move of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government.
In a statement, the PPP’s parliamentary leader in the Senate, Sherry Rehman, said the procedure for the appointment of ECP members had clearly been defined in the Constitution, and that the government had violated the document.
She said the government bypassed the Opposition Leader in parliament and the parliamentary committee on the appointment of ECP members.
Rehman said the ECP chief had upheld the Constitution’s supremacy by the decision, adding that the government should learn to respect the Constitution and parliament, and that government could not be run through presidential ordinances and notifications.
She also asked the government to review its “dictatorial” approach.
Former Senate chairman and constitutional expert Mian Raza Rabbani said that the manner in which Siddiqui and Kakar were appointed by the president was in clear violation of Articles 213 and 218 of the Constitution.
He said it is unfortunate that this “attack” on parliament and the Constitution had come from within, as under Article 50 of the Constitution, the president happened to be part of the parliament.
“In this instant case, the president has, with mala fide intention, violated the 18th constitutional amendment by making these appointments in his discretion,” he said, adding that the words “in his discretion” had been omitted from the relevant article of the Constitution.
He said the entire process of appointment had been marred by constitutional violations for and on behalf of the government.
The constitutional requirement of filling these vacancies within 45 days of their occurrence had already been violated, he explained.
“Those trying to wear the shoes of Sharifuddin Pirzada should realise that this is not a question of interpretation of an article, but a deliberate circumvention of the Constitution,” he remarked.
Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb regretted that the parliamentary committee on the appointment of ECP members had been ignored, and that a one-sided decision had been taken.
She demanded that the government reverse its “unconstitutional” decision.