Islamabad: The months-long deadlock between the government and the opposition over the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) finally came to an end when the new CEC Sikandar Sultan Raja took oath of office on Monday.
Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed administered the oath at the Supreme Court building.
After agreement between Prime Minister Imran Khan and the Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif over the name, President Arif Alvi had on Friday formally appointed Raja as the CEC for five years. The appointment of Nasir Durrani and Shah Mohammad Jatoi as members of the ECP from Sindh and Balochistan respectively has also been confirmed and notified.
A notification issued by the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs said that President Alvi made these appointments under Article 213 and 215 of the Constitution.
The office of the CEC had been lying vacant since the retirement of Justice (R) Sardar Muhammad Raza Khan on December 6, 2019 whereas the appointments of the two ECP members (from Sindh and Balochistan) had been pending for a year. Currently, only two members — one from Punjab and the other from the KP — were there, thus rendering the ECP practically rudderless.
The delay in the appointments to the key posts had left the ECP dysfunctional as according to the Election Commission rules, presence of at least three members was a must for functioning of the ECP.
Earlier, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) dismissed a petition regarding appointment of the CEC and two members after the government submitted its reply informing the high court that the government and the opposition had agreed over the names of the CEC and two members of the election commission.
The petitioner Mohsin Ranjha an MNA from Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) during the hearing said, “The credit goes to the court for these appointments.” To this the Chief Justice of the IHC Athar Minallah said, “The credit goes to the people of Pakistan.”
Parliament of Pakistan is supreme institution, which has representatives of the people and a strong Parliament will make Pakistan strong, the top judge remarked.
Sikandar Sultan Raja is a retired officer from civil service in BPS-22 grade (highest attainable rank for a serving officer) and has served at top bureaucratic positions such as the Railways Secretary, Petroleum Secretary and Chief Secretary of both Pakistan-Administered Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan.