ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is set to become non-functional as the chief election commissioner and two senior members of the commission will be proceeding abroad on the night between Friday and Saturday.
Informed sources told Dawn on Thursday that Chief Election Commissioner retired Justice Sardar Mohammad Raza will be leaving for the United States to observe the upcoming presidential election in the country.
He will be accompanied by the commission’s Sindh member Abdul Ghaffar Soomro, Punjab member retired Justice Altaf Ibrahim Qureshi and ECP Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Mohammad. They are scheduled to return on Nov 14.
CEC and two senior members of the commission will be proceeding abroad tonight
Only members from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan will be left in the country. KP member retired Justice Irshad Qaiser — the first-ever woman to become an ECP member — will take oath as acting chief election commissioner. The oath will be administered by Balochistan member retired Justice Shakeel Ahmad Baloch.
The oath-taking ceremony was scheduled for Saturday, but the CEC observed that since Saturday and Sunday were not working days, it should be held on Monday. Accordingly, the oath-taking ceremony will now be held on Monday at the conference hall of the ECP. All ECP officers of grade-17 and above have been asked to attend the ceremony.
Before the present ECP members’ appointment, the law was amended to provide for appointment of the senior most ECP member as acting chief election commissioner in the absence of the CEC.
Prior to the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution, a judge of the Supreme Court nominated by the chief justice was appointed acting chief election commissioner.
The ECP comprises the CEC and a member from each province. It takes decisions based on a majority view.
Experts believe that arrangements should have been made to keep at least three members home, as under the present situation, there would be an impasse in case of difference of opinion between the acting CEC and the only other available member.
The ECP is seized with important political cases, such as disqualification references against senior Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leaders, including Imran Khan and Jehangir Khan Tarin, and petitions against a PTI senator and two members of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly.
The hearing of disqualification petitions against the prime minister has already been put off till a decision on similar pleas pending before the Supreme Court.
The cases are fixed for hearing before the ECP on Nov 16 and the CEC and two ECP members are scheduled to return home two days prior to the hearing.
Published in Dawn, November 4th, 2016