ISLAMABAD - In a seemingly politically motivated move, one of the top officials of the Election Commission of Pakistan has opposed the commission’s decision on printing of the amended nomination papers without obtaining the president’s approval.
In a linked development, a delegation of Senate’s Special Committee on Election Affairs was reportedly set to visit the ECP today (Wednesday) but the meeting has been postponed till March 18 purportedly because the chief election commissioner is suffering from bad throat. Reportedly, Law Minister Farooq H Naek was to head the delegation meeting the ECP management with the request to the commission to reconsider its decision on the nomination papers.
On the other hand, the electoral body has reportedly sent the amended nomination papers to the Printing Corporation of Pakistan for printing 100,000 copies, 50,000 each for National and Provincial Assemblies. “We have moved ahead with the printing process. Nothing can be done now,” the officials commented.
On Monday, the ECP decided the printing of the amended nomination papers, contending that the president’s approval was not required for this purpose. Chief Election Commissioner Justice (r) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim had told The Nation that the ECP had taken the decision with mutual understanding and consensus. “I discussed this issue with the members (of ECP) and all of them supported the idea that we should go ahead with the printing of the amended nomination papers as we are constitutionally empowered to do so,” he had told this scribe by phone from Karachi.
However, it transpired on Tuesday that Justice (r) Roshan Essani, a member of Election Commission from Sindh, opposed the decision. In his dissenting note, Essani reportedly termed this step a violation of Section 107 of Representation of the People’s Act. This section states, “The commission may, with the approval of the president, make rules for carrying out the purposes of this act.” It may be recalled that the same member (Essani) had opposed the disqualification of Waheeda Shah, a candidate of Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) for a Sindh Assembly constituency in Tando Muhammad Khan. Shah was caught in the video footages, manhandling and abusing the electoral staff during a by-election held in February last year. The then CEC Justice (r) Hamid Ali Mirza and Roshan Essani had opposed Waheeda Shah’s disqualification while the other three members - Justice (r) Fazlur Rehman (Balochistan), Justice (r) Shahzad Akbar Khan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) and Justice (r) Riaz Kayani (Punjab) had supported her disqualification. The majority vote prevailed resulting in the decision against Waheeda Shah who was slapped a two-year ban from contesting the election.
“It appears that there has been a soft corner for the PPP,” a senior ECP official believed, while referring to Essani’s role in Waheeda Shah case and his opposition to the printing of the amended nomination papers without the president’s approval.
Several attempts were made on Tuesday to contact Justice (r) Roshan Essani for his version on the matter, but he was not available.
The ECP sources said Essani’s opposition to the printing of the nomination papers would not affect the commission’s decision since the CEC and the other three members had supported the amended nomination papers’ printing without seeking the president’s approval.