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Not a bureuacrat: Justice Khawaja turns down interim Election Commissioner post

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ISLAMABAD: Justice Jawwad S Khawaja has refused to take charge as the acting Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), a senior official in the Supreme Court told The Express Tribune.

Another official, who is close to Justice Khawaja, confirmed that the senior judge had declined to take charge as the CEC. According to the official, the Justice had maintained he was a “judge not a bureaucrat.”

After his refusal, Chief Justice of Pakistan Tassaduq Hussain Jillani has nominated Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali as the new acting CEC.

Justice Jamali will be the third consecutive interim chief of the Election Commission in less than one year.

The CEC spot was vacant after its former interim chief, Justice Nasirul Mulk, had resigned after being appointed as the new Chief Justice of Pakistan. Justice Mulk will take charge as the top judge on July 6.

Earlier, CJP Jillani had served as the acting CEC before taking charge as the Chief Justice of Pakistan.

Under article 217 of the Constitution, the Chief Justice of Pakistan can appoint any judge of the Supreme Court as acting CEC.

The chief election commissioner is a constitutional post which cannot be left vacant in the absence of a permanent head of commission.

Justice (Retd.) Fakharuddin G Ebrahim, who was appointed as the 13th CEC, had resigned on July 30, 2013, a day after the Presidential polls for which the opposition parties accused ECP of failing to conduct impartial polls.

Appointing a CEC

Following the 18th amendment, the prime minister in consultation with Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly nominates a candidate for appointment as the CEC to a parliamentary penal.

In case they do not agree on one name, they separately send the names of their nominees to the committee.

Since 1956, when ECP was established, only 13 permanent CEC’s have served, while 30 acting CEC’s had been appointed so far.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Opposition leader Khurshid Shah of PPP have yet to start consultations over a new CEC, 11 months since the post was vacated.

Jillani in line for CEC spot

There is speculation that the outgoing CJP, Justice Jillani, will be appointed as CEC.

However, the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) has opposed the move.

The PBCs’ executive committee passed a resolution opposing the appointment of the incumbent CJ as the permanent CEC.

“It seems that procrastination on behalf of government in initiating the process of appointment of permanent Chief Election Commissioner is intentional with a view to accommodate the incumbent Chief Justice and his retirement is being awaited. Although His Lordship (CJP) already has some experience pertaining to the working of Election Commission of Pakistan, which he gained while he was acting CEC before his appointment as Chief Justice of Pakistan, yet first and foremost consideration must be transparency and impartiality. Such considerations obviously would be lacking if the appointment of permanent CEC is made as a result of some ‘understanding’ which of course will frustrate the concept of neutralising of this high office. Needless to add that any such arrangement would be against the spirit of oath taken by His Lordship. Moreover, any such step shall give an ample opportunity to critics to point a figure at him and hurl certain allegations which could place a blot on his otherwise unblemished career.”

An apex body of lawyers, it has urged the concerned quarters that a suitable individual of national stature having the reputation of unquestionable integrity and impartiality should be appointed as permanent Chief Election Commissioner in accordance with constitutional provisions in consultation with all the stake holders.

The PBC resolution further states that there is need for a permanent CEC under the circumstances, but the appointment is being delayed by the government deliberately in order to accommodate a person of its own choice.

It is pertinent to mention here that the interim set up is unable to take any policy decisions as per ruling handed down by the August Supreme Court of Pakistan in Khawaja Asif case making the institution literally toothless.

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