Islamabad: Sikandar Sultan Raja was named Pakistan’s new chief election commissioner on Tuesday, ending months of political deadlock between the government and the opposition.

Federal Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari confirmed the appointment, saying that the decision would now be forwarded to Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Terming the decision “a welcoming move”, Mazari said that it is a matter of great satisfaction that the parliament settled the matter with consensus. “Parliamentary matters should be decided by the parliament. We should aim to work in this manner in the future” she told journalists.

In addition to Raja’s appointment as Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), Nisar Durrani has been named the ECP member from Sindh, while Shah Mehmood Jatoi would fill the slot for the member from Balochistan. Former Justices Altaf Ibrahim Qureshi and Irshad Qaiser would continue to serve as the members from Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, respectively.

The post of the CEC had been lying vacant since the retirement of former Justice Sardar Raza on December 6 while the Sindh and Balochistan posts of the ECP had been vacant for nearly a year. According to the law, the ECP positions must be filled within 45 days.

Opposition parties believe the consensus on appointments is a win for both politicians and the parliament and a “good omen”. Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) leader Rana Sanaullah told local media that “Sikandar Sultan Raja is an honest, hardworking and decent officer. He has also worked with us [PML-N] for a long period in Punjab.”

Rana hoped that the ECP would ensure transparency in the next elections. Former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf also expressed optimism that all three of the new appointees would do justice to the job.

Profile of Sikandar Raja

Pakistan’s new chief election commissioner is a retired bureaucrat. He has served at top positions such as the Railways Secretary, Petroleum Secretary and Chief Secretary of both Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan-administered Kashmir. He has also served as Deputy Commissioner Islamabad.

In Punjab province, he was posted as director general Excise & Taxation Punjab, provincial secretary Communications & Works Punjab, provincial secretary Services & General Administration Punjab, and director general Immigration & Passports in the federal government.

Most of his appointments in Punjab were under the administration of former premier Nawaz Sharif. Local media claims that Raja’s father-in-law, Saeed Mehdi, is considered close aide of Nawaz Sharif. Mehdi was the former principal secretary of Nawaz Sharif and also faced imprisonment along with Sharif in 1999 after his government was ousted in bloodless coup d’état.