The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday admitted a petition for regular hearing filed against the appointment of two members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) by President Dr Arif Alvi using his discretionary powers. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday admitted a petition for regular hearing filed against the appointment of two members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) by President Dr Arif Alvi using his discretionary powers.

President Alvi appointed Khalid Mehmood Siddiqui from Sindh and Munir Ahmed Kakar from Balochistan on Aug 22 against two the vacant posts previously held by Abdul Ghaffar Soomro and retired Justice Shakeel Baloch from the respective provinces.

The chief election commissioner (CEC) refused to administer the oath to both members-designate and wrote a letter to the law ministry, observing that the appointment of ECP members was not in accordance with relevant articles of the Constitution.

The CEC also cited the judgement of a five-member bench of the Supreme Court in 2013 which held that the president did not enjoy discretionary powers in the appointment of CEC and ECP members.

CEC refused to administer oath to both members-designate after president named them using his discretionary powers

The CEC made it clear that he would not administer the oath to members appointed ‘unconstitutionally’ by the president.

Subsequently, the ECP secretary did not receive the joining reports of Mr Siddiqui and Mr Kakar.

Barrister Jahangir Khan Jadoon challenged the appointments in the IHC, saying that the criteria for the appointment of CEC and members had been laid down in the Constitution and the notification issued for the appointment of members on Aug 22 was in violation of Articles 213 and 218 of the Constitution.

The petitioner pointed out that due to the “grave illegality, the chief election commissioner has refused to administer oath” to the newly appointed members.

He said there was no constitutional provision which allowed the president to appoint Mr Siddiqui and Mr Kakar by invoking his discretionary powers. The petitioner said that after the passage of the 18th Constitution Amendment, the president had lost his discretion powers to appoint ECP members.

The petition further contended that the entire process of appointment of ECP members had been marred by violation of the Constitution.

It said that the initial consultation between the prime minister and the leader of the opposition did not take place on the matter. Then a deputy secretary of the Foreign Office sent nominations to the leader of the opposition on behalf of the government, which were latter withdrawn.

According to the petition, the president, prime minister and secretary of parliamentary affairs could not complete the constitutional process due to mala fide and the five-member bench of the Supreme Court had specifically provided guidelines for appointments in the ECP.

The petition further said that the appointment of both members-designate had been made without following the due process and it was marred with nepotism and favoritism and requested the court to set aside these appointments.

The petition cited President Alvi, Prime Minister Imran Khan, the secretary of parliamentary affairs, CEC, Mr Siddiqui and Mr Kakar as respondents.

After initial hearing, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah admitted the petition for regular hearing and issued notices to the respondents and sought their reply in a fortnight.

The court also put attorney general on notice for the next date of hearing on Sept 12.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2019