Senate passes 22nd Amendment Bill on eligibility criteria for CEC, Members of ECP

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ISLAMABAD, Jun 2 (APP): The Senate on Thursday passed [The Constitution (22nd Amendment) Bill, 2016] unanimously with two-third majority on eligibility criteria for
appointment of Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and members of Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

The bill was piloted by Minister for Law and Justice Zahid Hamid in the House.

As many as 72 members voted in favour of the bill while no one voted against the bill in the House.

According to the law, at present only retired Judges of Supreme Court or High Court are eligible for appointment as chief election commissioner or members, respectively.

Now after amendment, in addition to retired judges of Supreme Court or High Court, retired senior bureaucrats or senior civil servants and technocrats will also be eligible for appointment as chief election commissioner or a member.

In case if there is no consensus between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition on appointment of chief election commissioner, each shall forward separate lists to the Parliamentary Committee for consideration which may confirm any one’s name.

A senior civil servant means a civil servant who has served for at least 20 years under federal or a provincial government and has retired in BPS-22 or above.

A person having 16 years‘ education and 20 years‘ experience would be called ‘a technocrat’. The law also fixed a maximum age limit of 68 years and 65 years for appointment as CEC and ECP members, respectively.

In order to give representation to all provinces, out of four members, one from each province shall be appointed.
Another important change relates to continuity of the Commission, whereby instead of all four members retiring together, two of the members shall retire every two and a half years. For the first term, the Commission will draw a lot as to which two members shall retire after the first two and a half years.

Other amendments provide that delimitation of constituencies and preparation of electoral rolls for elections to local governments shall also be the responsibility of the Election Commission of Pakistan.

Speaking on the occasion, Finance Minister Mohammad Ishaq Dar said that ten members from Senate were part of 34 members Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms. He said that they also submitted their objections during 18th Constitutional Amendment with patience.
The committee presented its report on May 17 on the proposed electoral reforms, he added.

The minister said that the National Assembly again passed those fours bills in which Senate proposed amendments.
He said qualification for CEC and members ECP were decided by the committee members unanimously.

Ishaq Dar said that two members of ECP out of four would retire in rotation like in Senate.

He said the 22nd amendment was brought with
consensus of all political parties. All the decisions
were taken with consensus in the committee and no one
imposed their will, he added
Minister for Law and Justice Zahid Hamid said that all political parties have their representation in 34 members constitutional reforms committee. No one submitted dissent note, he added.

The committee held 18 meetings while 57 meetings of the sub-committee were held in this regard.

Leader of the Opposition Aitzaz Ahsan objected over the wording of the bill and said PBS 22 should not be used in it.
He said Senate was not mere a rubber stamp and the draft of 22nd Amendment had certain mistakes.

He opposed the maximum age limit for ECP member that had been proposed 68 years in the bill.

He said that it was also necessary to pass the bill before June 10. However, he stressed to avoid such faulty drafting.
Farhatullah Babar said it should not be a principle that the Senate must pass those bills which had been passed by the National Assembly.

He said that the government should ensure to rectify wordings of the bill.

Sirajul Haq, Nauman Wazir, Ilyas Bilour, Barrister Saif, Dr Babar Awan and others also expressed their reservations and said that the government should bring the bill earlier, prior to the retirement of ECP members.

The National Assembly has already passed the bill unanimously.