Tuesday Mar 16, 2021
In a press conference on Monday, government ministers demanded that the Chief Election Commissioner and other officials step down from their office, as “people have lost confidence” in the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), which the ministers added, had “clearly failed in fulfilling” its responsibilities.
The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has been locking horns with the independent election body, tasked to conduct free and fair polls in the country, since the run-up to the elections of the Senate.
Last week, in a televised speech, the prime minister criticized the body for allowing foul play in the polls of the Upper House, to which the ECP replied, in a stern statement, that "don't sling mud" at the national institution and let it work.
But now the government wants the men and women, who head the ECP, to pack up and go home.
But political statements aside, can the government sack the Chief Election Commissioner?
While the Constitution allows the ruling and Opposition parties to name a chief election commissioner for five years after consultation, it doesn’t allow them to remove the commissioner on their own.
Article 215, Clause 2 reads that the Commissioner shall not be removed from office except in the manner prescribed in Article 209 for the removal from office of a judge.
It further adds that the commissioner may also write to the president and resign from office. Once removed, the vacancy of the office or a member of the ECP must be filled within 45 days.
While Article 209 Clause 5 states that if on information from any source, the Supreme Judicial Council is of the opinion that a judge of the Supreme Court or of a high court may be incapable of properly performing the duties of their office by reason of physical or mental incapacity or may have been guilty of misconduct, the president shall direct the Council to, or the Council may, on its own motion inquire into the matter.
The article adds that a judge of the Court shall not be removed from office except as provided by the Article.
When asked by a reporter if the government is preparing a reference against the CEC to file with the Supreme Judicial Council, federal minister Shafqat Mahmood replied: “We are giving you a political solution, we do not have any plan to move any reference.”