Law Minister Farooq Naek said on Wednesday that neither the chief election commissioner nor any of the four other members of the commission can be removed through an executive order or a legislative move.
The law minister’s statement came after meeting leading constitutional experts in pursuance of the Islamabad Long March Declaration the government had signed with Minhajul Quran International chief Dr Tahirul Qadri on January 17.
“The committee considered various aspects of the matters referred and after deliberating over the relevant constitutional provisions, there was a consensus that neither the CEC nor any member of the election commission could be removed from office by discretion of the government,” stated an official handout issued after the meeting.
Article 218 of the constitution deals with the composition of a permanent election commission for the purpose of holding elections. The permanent composition of the commission implies that it cannot be dissolved by any legislative or executive action.
According to article 215 of the constitution, the CEC and individual members are appointed for five years, with their tenure starting from the date they assume office.
The process of removal is only in the manner prescribed in Article 209 which envisages a reference by the president on grounds which do not appear to be available against the chief election commissioner or any incumbent member of the Commission.
“The Constitution envisages security of tenure for the chief election commissioner and members of the commission, which cannot be taken away without an amendment in the Constitution, which may itself be controversial and unattainable,” read the handout.
The meeting was also attended by SM Zafar, Aitzaz Ahsan, Abdul Latif Afridi, Dr Khalid Ranjha, Dr Muhammad Farrogh Naseem and Prof Hammayun Ehsan.
Meanwhile, a government team led by Naek will be meeting the chief election commissioner today (Thursday) to discuss the issue of the ECP’s ban imposed on all recruitments in the government.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 24th, 2013.