ISLAMABAD: The deadlock over the appointment of chief election commissioner and two members of the Election Commission of Pakistan persists as the government on Friday stuck to its decision to appoint ECP secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Mohammad as CEC with the opposition remaining firm it would not let it happen.
National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser jumped into the fray and tried to play the role of a facilitator, but his efforts bore no fruit.
The parliamentary committee on appointment of the CEC and ECP members, headed by Human Rights Minister Dr. Shireen Mazari, could not meet as per the schedule and its meeting had to be put off till Monday — the third postponement in a week.
The government and opposition representatives met through the speaker’s facilitation. The government team comprised Dr. Mazari, Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Azam Swati, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan and Naseebullah Bazai of the Balochistan Awami Party.
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was represented at the meeting by its secretary-general Ahsan Iqbal, Mushahidullah Khan, Khawaja Saad Rafiq and Murtaza Javed Abbasi, while former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and Senator Dr Sikandar Mandhro represented the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
While the government insisted on the name of Babar Yaqoob Fateh Mohammad, which appears on top of the list of three names proposed by it for the CEC office, the opposition, particularly Mushahidullah Khan of the PML-N, opposed the move.
Talking to Dawn after the meeting, Mushahidullah Khan said the government’s nominee number 1 for the CEC office was the ECP secretary when the 2018 general elections were allegedly rigged. “Our narrative will stand nowhere if we agree on his name,” he remarked. He, however, said, “otherwise, he (Babar Yaqoob) is an honourable man”.
Answering a question, he said the government had not yet offered the opposition to have two ECP members of its choice in return if the opposition agreed on its nomination for the CEC. He made it clear that the appointment of the CEC and ECP members from Sindh and Balochistan would be made as part of a package and not turn-by-turn.
Meanwhile, the opposition’s Rehbar Committee met here earlier in the day and discussed various matters concerning the appointment of the CEC and two ECP members.
Talking to reporters after the meeting, Rehbar Committee’s convenor Akram Durrani said the last general elections had shattered public confidence in the ECP. He said the opposition wanted to restore this confidence, adding that the opposition had proposed the names of people enjoying a good reputation. He said it was the opposition’s desire that the matter of appointment of the CEC and ECP members was resolved by parliament. He criticized the government for not being able to create consensus. He said a consensus had been reached between the two sides to take a decision on the appointment of the CEC and two ECP members in one go.
Ahsan Iqbal, while speaking on the occasion, observed that the process of consultation between the prime minister and the opposition leader should have started much earlier. “It was known for three years that the CEC will be retiring,” he said.
The PML-N leader criticized the government for persuading its own president to arbitrarily appoint two ECP members in his discretion in clear violation of the Constitution.